Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Joelle Ruthig


Caring for an older family member with dementia can be extremely stressful, often resulting in diminished psychological health. Prior research has shown that a strong sense of control protects well-being during stressful times. Therefore, greater perceived control may serve to buffer the effects of stress on familial caregivers’ psychological health. According to control theorists (Heckhausen & Schulz, 1995; Rothbaum, Weisz, & Snyder, 1982), a general sense of control is maintained through a dual process involving direct attempts to change the environment (i.e., primary control strategies) and attempts to inwardly adjust cognitions to align with the environment (i.e., secondary control strategies). The present study applied this dual process model of perceived control to familial caregivers of an older adult with dementia. Participants were 51 primary familial caregivers who completed either an online or paper and pencil survey assessing their use of primary and secondary control strategies, their overall sense of control, and several measures of well-being. The results showed that greater use of the secondary control strategy of positive reappraisal predicted a stronger sense of control in general. In turn, this stronger sense of general control predicted greater life satisfaction and more positive emotions, as well as less perceived stress and fewer depressive symptoms. Findings contribute to a better understanding of the protective role of control strategies among dementia caregivers.