Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. Clinical Psychology




College of Science & Mathematics


Arigo, Danielle

Committee Member 1

Fife, Dustin

Committee Member 2

Young, Chelsie


Cancer, Health Behavior, Older Adults, Personal Mastery, Social Support


Health behavior--Age factors; Cancer--Patients


Clinical Psychology


Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The majority of individuals struggle to adhere to recommended dietary and physical activity guidelines. Specifically, older adults with cancer struggle to meet health behavior recommendations, and tend to have additional risk factors, such as poor social support. Following the Transactional Theory of Stress and Coping, an individual's response to a stressful situation (cancer diagnosis) would be influenced by the interaction between their internal resources (personal mastery) and external resources (social support). Using archival data from the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging, 725 older adults were surveyed to examine the moderating effects of personal mastery on the relations between social support and (1) Mediterranean diet and (2) physical activity. Differences in gender and time since cancer diagnosis were also explored.

Personal mastery did not moderate relations between social support and Mediterranean diet adherence nor total physical activity minutes. However, personal mastery moderated this relation with total walking minutes. No significant differences were found across gender and time since diagnosis. Preliminary findings suggest that a cancer patient's perception of greater control over their situation facilitate greater effectiveness of social support and its association with walking activity. Therefore, a Mastery Enhancement Therapy intervention might be useful for older adults with cancer.