Developing a couple typology: A qualitative study of couple dynamics around physical activity

Ida Griesemer*, Ashley Phillips, Cynthia Khan, Stephanie Bahorski, Mary Altpeter, Leigh F. Callahan, S. Porter Laura, Christine Rini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Partner-based social support can motivate engagement in physical activity (PA); however, couples approach exchanging support in different ways. This study aimed to elucidate the role of relationship dynamics in couple-based support for PA, with the goal of informing intervention strategies that will effectively leverage couple characteristics to increase support for PA. We conducted a qualitative study of couples who completed a longitudinal study of social support for PA. Participants were people with osteoarthritis who were not meeting PA recommendations and their cohabitating partners (n = 19 couples). We conducted in-depth, semistructured interviews and analyzed transcripts using narrative analysis. Participants were 76% non-Hispanic White and, on average, 62 years old. Themes in the data included (a) attitudes about working together to be more active (ranging from positive to negative) and (b) couples' narrative concordance (high to low shared reality). We developed a couple typology with four categories: "Working together works"(positive attitudes/high shared reality; n = 4 couples), "Doing our own thing"(range of attitudes with practical/preferential barriers to working together/high shared reality; n = 5 couples), "Conscious conflict"(discrepant attitudes/high shared reality; n = 5 couples), and "Different realities"(discrepant attitudes/low shared reality; n = 5 couples). We describe examples of each type. In a sample of 19 couples, there were observable differences in participants' attitudes about working together to be more active and in couples' shared reality around those attitudes. Future research should investigate implications for the efficacy of interventions and, if warranted, develop methods to identify couple types and offer appropriate intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)751-759
Number of pages9
JournalTranslational behavioral medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Couples
  • Physical activity
  • Qualitative research
  • Social support
  • Typology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Applied Psychology


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