Health-Related Social Control Within Older Adults' Relationships

Published in: Journal of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences, v. 57, no. 5, Sep. 2002, p. 387-395

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2002

by Joan S. Tucker

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This study examined the size and composition of older adults' social control networks and investigated behavioral and affective responses to the experience of social control. Social control in the health domain refers to regulatory attempts by others (direct), and feelings of obligation and responsibility to others (indirect), that encourage engagement in a healthy lifestyle. Participants were 181 adults aged 65-80 years who completed a mail survey. On average, older adults reported having 3-5 people in their social network who exerted a positive influence on their health behaviors, with the size and composition of this network varying somewhat by marital and parental statuses. Social control was associated with both positive and negative behavioral and affective responses, depending on both the type of social control (direct vs indirect) and level of relationship satisfaction. Results indicate the importance of better understanding the conditions under which social relationships have beneficial versus detrimental effects on the well-being of older adults.

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