The Relevance of Control Beliefs for Health and Aging



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with aging or fluctuations within persons may have a negative impact on health and well-being.
Shupe
(1985)
suggested that feeling a loss of control does not cause disease, but it alters the physiological state of the individual and leads to an increased physical and mental vulnerability (p. 184). It is an important goal of aging research to identify those factors that enable adults to remain resilient and to maintain their sense of control in the face of aging-related declines.
socIodemographIc varIatIons
In control BelIefs
In addition to variations by age, the sense of control shows systematic differences in relation to other socio- demographic variables including sex, socioeconomic status (SeS; educational attainment, income, culture, and race/ethnicity. Of particular interest is whether these patterns of variation are consistent across multiple age/cohorts, or whether the course of aging differs as a function of sociodemographic characteristics. Although sex differences are not typically large, the overall pattern in surveys with representative samples shows that women have a lower general sense of control than men, although these sex differences appear to be somewhat less pronounced among the college- educated (
Lachman & Weaver, a, and there are some domains (e.g., social) in which women report higher control (
Lachman & Weaver, a. SeS is also related to sense of control. Those in lower income brackets report less control over their lives, which likely reflects the constraints associated with their circumstances and environments (Adler et al., 1993;

Lachman & Weaver, b Wolinsky & Stump, A good deal of work has investigated education in relation to control beliefs during adulthood and old age, and there is consistent evidence that those with higher educational attainment have higher control beliefs on average (

Lachman & Weaver, a mirowsky & Ross, 2007
). We do not know definitively if those with higher education develop a greater sense of control or whether those with greater control are more likely to seek out and achieve advanced education. Those with higher educational attainment may develop control on the basis of what they learn about solving problems, or because they have more resources (both material and psychological, e.g., coping skills) available, or greater exposure to situations in which they have the opportunity to make choices and see a contingency between their actions and outcomes. With longitudinal data and statistical controls, some have reached tentative conclusions about direc- tionality. for example, mirowsky and Ross (found an increase in control of about 0.60 Sds with each four years of education in early adulthood. They also adjusted for the status of origin using parental education and found one’s own level of education contributed additional variance to control beliefs. Although firm conclusions about directionality are not possible based on current knowledge, the results suggest that education affects control beliefs, and it is less likely that changes in control produce changes in education. In future studies, it will be interesting to consider whether providing opportunities for control of resources or stimuli (e.g., control over word presentation rate or sound volume, choice of words to recall) in experimental paradigms will help to illuminate mechanisms that can reduce educational disparities in important aging outcomes. Another important consideration for future research is whether obtaining advanced education in midlife and beyond has an effect on sense of control in later life.

There are also cultural variations in the nature and meaning of control (

Ashman et al., 2006; Skaff & gardiner, 2003
). Thus, it is important to have a contextual model of control to consider variations by culture as well as by race and ethnicity. more so than citizens of any other country, Americans believe that they are in control of outcomes in their lives. A 2002 Pew Center poll of 38,000 people in 44 countries presented atypical control-belief item Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control (Leland, 2004
). In the United States, about 65% disagreed with the statement, as did 60% in Canada. In other countries, disagreement ranged from about
10% (Bangladesh) to 50% (Japan. Variations in control beliefs across countries are likely tied to different economic conditions, values, and religious beliefs, or worldviews about fatalism.
Asian Americans and Asians in Asia report lower levels of perceived control than non-Asians (
Sastry & Ross, 1998
). When comparing Western and eastern cultures, it is not only the level of perceived control but the salience of control that varies by individualistic (Western) and collective (eastern) cultures
(
markus & Kitayama, 1991
). The importance of personal control over outcomes is more closely tied to health and well-being in Western cultures (
markus &
Kitayama, 1991
). Japanese men are more optimistic about their ability to control a chance event collectively, whereas American men are more optimistic about their personal ability to control such events
(
Yamaguchi et al., 2005

). Primary control maybe more central for achieving goals in Western cultures, and secondary control more common as a strategy in eastern cultures (Schulz & Heckhausen, 1999
), yet both are ways to achieve control with different emphases, as a function of variations in cultural prescriptions for independence and interdependence
(
Ashman et al., There is a small body of work examining differences in control beliefs by race and ethnicity in later life (
fiorri et al., 2006; mirowsky et al., 1996
).



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