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Objective. Beliefs in one's ability to perform a task or behaviour successfully are described as self-efficacy beliefs (Bandura, 1977). Since individuals have to deal with differing demands during a behaviour-change process, they form phase-specific self-efficacy beliefs directed at these respective challenges. The present study, based on the Health Action Process Approach (Schwarzer, 2001), examines the theoretical differentiation, relative importance, and differential effects of four phase-specific self-efficacy beliefs, including task self-efficacy, preactional self-efficacy, maintenance self-efficacy, and recovery self-efficacy.

Design. In a prospective longitudinal study, 112 prostatectomy-patients received questionnaires at 2 days, 2 weeks, 1 month, and 6 months post-surgery.

Methods. Participants provided data on phase-specific self-efficacies as well as phase indicators of health-behaviour change, that is, intentions, planning, and pelvic-floor exercise. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to test the study hypotheses.

Results. Task self-efficacy was not uniquely associated with intentions. Preactional self-efficacy was related to action planning. Maintenance self-efficacy did not predict behaviour. Recovery self-efficacy was associated with re-uptake of pelvic-floor exercise after relapses only.

Conclusion. Findings underline the importance of differentiating between task self-efficacy and preactional self-efficacy during early phases of behaviour change as well as of considering the occurrence of relapses as a moderator of potential effects of recovery self-efficacy on the maintenance of behaviour change. Advanced knowledge on distinct, phase-specific self-efficacy beliefs may facilitate the design of effective tailored interventions for behaviour change.