Social control has the potential to encourage engagement in a healthy lifestyle, but its effectiveness may depend on the nature of the influence attempt. Participants (N = 282) described a situation in which someone attempted to influence their health-related behavior. Experiencing positive social control was associated with a greater tendency to change the behavior and less ignoring/doing nothing, whereas negative social control was associated with a lesser tendency to change the behavior and more hiding of unhealthy behavior. These associations could be accounted for by affective responses to the social control attempts. Results emphasize the need to better understand the regulatory influence of relationships on health behavior and the conditions under which social control is most likely to have health-promoting effects.
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