Mr. & Mrs
A Social Cognitive Approach to Understanding how the Marital Context Influences Physical Activity
Recent literature has demonstrated the power of marriage in influencing spousal physical activity behavior, yet the relationship between marriage and activity is not fully understood. The purpose of this qualitative study was to add to current literature by examining the mechanisms within the marital context that may influence physical activity. Employing constructs of Social Cognitive Theory to guide the inquiry, researchers used the qualitative techniques of in-depth interviews, photo elicitation and field notes to gather data in 2012 from twelve spousal pairs (n=24 participants). Results indicated verbal persuasion by husbands encouraged wives, yet verbal persuasion by wives was perceived as nagging by men. Verbal persuasion by husbands increased a few of wives’ sense of self-efficacy (25%), yet the majority of women (83%) felt that persuasion increased motivation, not necessarily confidence. Results also highlighted the power of modeling to increase husbands’ physical activity. Overwhelmingly, men reacted less positively to verbal persuasion than modeling (75%). This study demonstrated the utility of Social Cognitive Theory in advancing our understanding of spousal physical activity and underscored the need for health professionals to consider the marital dyad when designing health interventions.