Perceiving control: A double-edged sword in old age

Ute Kunzmann, Todd Little, Jacqui Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Although control beliefs are thought to be pivotal contributors to emotional well-being in old age, questions remain about the specific and long-term emotional implications of different types of control beliefs. We examined three generalized beliefs about control (personal control over desirable outcomes, personal responsibility for undesirable outcomes, perceived others' control) and their associations with emotional well-being (positive and negative affect) using cross-sectional (N = 516) and longitudinal (N = 206) samples from the Berlin Aging Study (age range = 70-103 years). Relationships between control beliefs and emotional well-being were dependent on the type of control belief and the dimension of emotional well-being considered, the sample investigated, and on whether individual differences at a given point in time or individual differences in intraindividual changes over time were examined. Despite these complexities, findings suggest that perceived control over desirable outcomes is associated with high emotional well-being, whereas perceived others' control is an emotional risk factor in old age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)P484-P491
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2002


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