Spouse social control efforts: Relations to health behavior and well-being among men with prostate cancer

Vicki S. Helgeson, Sarah A. Novak, Stephen J. Lepore, David T. Eton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


We measured perceptions of wives' attempts to encourage appropriate health behavior among men with prostate cancer, a phenomenon known as 'social control. ' We examined social control for health-enhancing behaviors (e.g., exercise), health-restorative behaviors (e.g., sleep), and health-compromising behaviors (e.g., smoking). We interviewed 80 married men with prostate cancer shortly after treatment, 2 months later, and 8 months later. Social control was distinct from social support and social conflict. There was no evidence that spouse social control was effective in producing positive changes in health behavior. In fact, health-restorative and health-compromising social control were associated with poor health behavior. There were no relations between social control and changes in health behavior over time. Spouse social control was associated with greater psychological distress, especially health-restorative and health-compromising social control. There was some evidence that social control undermined personal control beliefs overtime. Future research should consider examining differences in the way that social control is conveyed, so that we may better understand its relations to health behavior and well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-68
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Prostate cancer
  • Social control
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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