Social control in personal relationships: impact on health behaviors and psychological distress

Health Psychol. 1999 Jan;18(1):63-71. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.18.1.63.


This study examines associations among social control, health behavior change, and psychological distress. Social control refers to interactions between social network members that entail regulation, influence, and constraint. Social control is predicted to have dual effects leading to better health practices while also arousing psychological distress. A random sample of 242 individuals answered questions about health practices, overall exposure to social control in their networks, and social control attempts made by a specific network member. Analyses yielded mixed support for the hypotheses, but analyses of responses to the social control attempts of a specific network member did reveal that social control predicted less health-compromising behavior and more health-enhancing behavior as well as more distress. The results suggest that social control warrants greater attention in efforts to understand how personal relationships influence health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Control, Informal*
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*