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Health Commun. 2018 May 3:1-12. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2018.1461584. [Epub ahead of print]

Strategies in Context: How Perceptions of Romantic Partner Support for Weight Loss Vary by the Relational Context.

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a Department of Communication Studies , University of Texas at Austin.


Because romantic partners can be a strong influence on individuals' weight loss efforts and progress, the current study assessed the relational context of weight loss-dynamics within the relationship that pertain to weight loss. Three relational characteristics were examined: whether the weight loss was a team effort, how much partners had opposing approaches to weight loss, and individuals' difficulty in balancing their weight loss goals within their relationship goals. Findings showed that the relational characteristics were associated with both the perceived frequency and effectiveness of partner strategies (i.e., instrumental influence, encouragement, and coercion). Team effort was associated with perceiving all three strategies as more frequent and effective; opposing approaches were negatively associated with encouragement but positively associated with coercion for both frequency and effectiveness; and balance struggle was positively associated with coercion frequency and effectiveness. Additionally, a cluster analysis of the three relational characteristics yielded four relational climates: synchronized (high team effort, low relational strains), contentious cooperatives (moderate in all three relational characteristics), autonomous (low in all relational characteristics), and lone battlers (low team effort, high relational strains). The groups varied in the strategies they perceived as effective. All of these findings emerged beyond the variance explained by general relationship satisfaction. Overall, these results better explicate relationship characteristics that can be incorporated into a larger, ecological model on health behavior change.

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