Understanding health behavior change among couples: an interdependence and communal coping approach

Soc Sci Med. 2006 Mar;62(6):1369-80. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.08.006. Epub 2005 Sep 16.


Marriage is a ubiquitous social status that consistently is linked to health. Despite this, there has been very little theory development or related research on the extent to which couple members are jointly motivated to and actively engage in health-enhancing behaviors. In this paper we propose an integrative model, based on interdependence theory and communal coping perspectives, that explicitly considers dyadic processes as determinants of couple behavior. Our integrated model applies these constructs to consider how couple dynamics might influence adoption of risk-reducing health habits. Accordingly, we suggest that the couple's interdependence can transform motivation from doing what is in the best interest of the self (person-centered), to doing even selfless actions that are best for the continuation of the relationship (relationship-centered). In turn, this transformation can lead to enhanced motivation for the couple to cope communally or act cooperatively in adopting health-enhancing behavior change. Implications for research related to couples and health behavior change are also highlighted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Motivation
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Spouses / psychology*