Health locus of control, gender differences and adjustment to persistent pain

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SummaryLocus of control (LOC) beliefs, long thought important in adjustment to persistent pain, were studied among 160 subjects (67 males and 93 females) referred to a comprehensive pain rehabilitation program. The subscale structure of the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control (MHLC) was factorially replicated in our sample. Three unique MHLC profile clusters were identified for both males and females. Among men, cluster assignment was related to age only. The younger male patients reported a stronger internal attributional style. Older male patients relied more heavily on both chance and powerful other factors. Among women, cluster assignment was related to the use of coping strategies. For example, patients with high internal scores only, reflecting a strong internal orientation towards self-management of health care needs, were more likely to utilize Information-Seeking, Self-Blame, and Threat Minimization coping strategies than patients with high scores on both the Internal and Powerful Other factors. It appears that the presence of both Internal and Powerful Other health attributional styles is associated with less frequent use of cognitive self-management techniques. In understanding the LOC scores it is important to rely on pattern analysis of scores. Implications for clinical treatment are discussed.

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