Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Elizabeth Dugan

Second Advisor

Frank Porell

Third Advisor

Margie Lachman


While research on control beliefs and frailty as separate concepts is rapidly expanding, few studies have investigated the relationship between control beliefs and frailty. Frailty is an integrated clinical syndrome that is closely associated with adverse health outcomes and mortality. It is important to more fully understand the relationship between sense of control and frailty because the protective effects of sense of control may benefit older adults at risk of frailty. This research uses data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and examines the relationship between sense of control and frailty of older adults by taking multilevel factors into account. Further, the impact of financial loss on the level of sense of control is examined. Logistic regression and cross-lagged model are used to examine sense of control and frailty at the individual level (n = 7,695). Multilevel multinomial regression model and Actor Partner Interdependence model are conducted to investigate sense of control and frailty at the couple level (n = 1,509). Difference-in-differences model and linear regression model are used to explore the impact of financial loss on change in sense of control (n = 16,936). The results suggest that sense of control is positively associated with lower risk of frailty among older individuals and older couples. Furthermore, there is a reciprocal relationship between sense of control and frailty. Additionally, actual financial loss, as well as perceived financial loss have a negative impact on sense of control. Programs or interventions to enhance sense of control should be developed and available. Intervention programs targeting married couples should emphasize the spousal effects of sense of control. Married couples, could be a source of social support and influence each other’s level of frailty. Moreover, sense of control tends to decline over time, and financial loss may expedite this trajectory. Special attention should therefore be given to those who experience financial loss in an effort to minimize the associated detrimental effects.


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