Regulating health behavior change often occurs in a dyadic context of romantic relationships. Dyadic approaches to standard health behavior change models are, however, barely considered. We investigated volitional processes of the Health Action Process Approach model for two health behaviors within a dyadic context of romantic couples. Specifically, we tested whether day-to-day volitional self-regulation predicted one's own and one's partner's cigarettes smoked (Study 1) and physical activity (Study 2).
In two dyadic intensive longitudinal studies (Study 1: 83 dual-smoker couples intending to jointly quit smoking; Study 2: 61 overweight couples intending to become physically active), heterosexual partners independently reported on intention, self-efficacy, action planning, and action control in end-of-day diaries. In Study 1, daily number of cigarettes smoked was assessed via self-report. In Study 2, daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was assessed objectively via accelerometers. In both studies, dyadic cross-lagged intensive longitudinal analyses based on the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model were applied.
Across both studies, individual's own volitional self-regulation positively predicted one's own health behavior (less cigarettes smoked and more MVPA). One's partner's action control and intention also positively predicted one's own health behavior. A marginal partner effect for self-efficacy was found in the context of smoking only.
Behavioral self-regulation is not only relevant for individuals themselves, but some volitional processes may spill over to their partners. This highlights the need to specify couple-level processes involved in health behavior change, and to consider a social context of self-regulation.