Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Lisa L. Harlow


Three psychological variables, subjective control and life meaning, self-efficacy, and perceived risk, were tested in a structural model predicting AIDS preventive behavior. A positive relationship was hypothesized among these variables such that higher measures of subjective control and life meaning, self-efficacy, and perceived risk, would increase the likelihood that a college student would engage in AIDS preventive behavior. In addition, gender differences on the pattern of relationships among the constructs were hypothesized, as well as mean level differences on the measures of these constructs.

The structural model was analyzed with a sample of 633 college students. Subjective control and life meaning constituted the independent variable, the two situation-specific constructs of self-efficacy and perceived risk were mediating variables, and AIDS preventive behavior was the dependent variable. The analyses revealed the model to be a good representation of the data. Overall chi-square statistics and fit indices were adequate, and all individual parameter estimates were significant

The pathways from subjective control and life meaning to self-efficacy and from self-efficacy to AIDS preventive behavior were positive in direction, indicating that the stronger a person's sense of control over a life which is meaningful, the greater self-efficacy that person feels, and the more likely he/she is to engage in AIDS preventive behavior. In contrast, the pathways from subjective control and life meaning to perceived risk, and from these two constructs to AIDS preventive behavior were negative in direction. These results suggest that an individual who feels a sense of competence, control, and purposefulness, is less likely to feel vulnerable to the AIDS virus, and is less likely to take preventive action. Also, in this sample, an individual perceiving vulnerability to HIV infection was less likely to take appropriate precautions.

Finally, the model was analyzed on a sample of 201 men and 401 women, separately. Again, the model performed well on both samples. A multisample model comparing the relationship across constructs for men and women revealed no significant differences in the pattern of these relationships. However, mean differences were revealed on some of the measures of AIDS self-efficacy, AIDS preventive behavior, and AIDS perceived risk, between men and women.

In general, this study indicates that the three psychological constructs of subjective control and life meaning, self-efficacy, and perceived risk, add to our understanding of what may be influencing AIDS preventive behavior in college students. However, further research is needed to identify and test what other psychological, social, and behavioral variables could be relevant in determining why some young adults engage in AIDS preventive behavior and others do not.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.