The contribution of three social psychological theories: Fundamental cause theory, stress process model, and social cognitive theory to the understanding of health disparities -- a longitudinal comparison

Frishman, Natalia
Major Professor
Gloria Jones-Johnson
Committee Member
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This study examined the contribution of three social psychological theories--fundamental cause theory, stress process model, and social cognitive theory--to understand health disparities. These theories helped reveal causal relationships between the social and economic factors, and their influence on health-related behaviors and health outcomes. The changes of the influence of social and economic factors on health-related behaviors and health outcomes were observed across three time points. This is important because investigation of the ways social and economic conditions influence health is helpful to understand how to support the health of the population.

This research is based on the analysis of Americans' Changing Life (ACL) survey. ACL survey is a multistage area probability sample of the citizens of the United States aged 25 and older. In the current study three waves of the survey were examined, 1986, 1989, and 1994. The baseline survey includes 3,617 participants.

The data have been analyzed using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM).

The results showed the three theories complement each other. Each theory considered the social structural approach, supported by the results of the current study, which show most of the direct effects of socio economic factors for all parts of the models were significant. Consideration of differential stress exposures provides additional explanation to health disparities. The current study revealed significant socioeconomic disparities in chronic stressors and negative life events. Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) suggests that personal determinants may influence health behaviors and outcomes. Results from the current study showed perceived control is an important personal determinant of health.

This dissertation expands knowledge of the development of health disparities among the population by analyzing the problem from the perspective of fundamental cause theory, stress process model, and social cognitive theory.