Broadening our approaches to Health Behavior Change: taking context into account

  • T. Mann
  • R. Burns
  • K. Joyal-Desmarais
  • C. Huelsnitz
  • M. Panos
  • H. Scherschel
  • L. Auster-Gussman


Aims: 1. To illuminate the important role that individuals’ relationships have on the degree to which they engage in healthy behavior. 2. To provide brief training on how to include relationship factors in one’s studies of health behavior change. 3. To illuminate the important ways in which efforts to successfully engage in one health behavior may be influenced by the other health behaviors that individuals are engaging in. 4. To provide brief training in how to measure aspects of the behavior change context with narrative data. Rationale: Contextual factors in health behavior change is an important topic to talk about because these factors matter, and yet they continue to be ignored or minimized in much research. Models may include these factors, but they are still not typically studied in a thorough and focused manner. We will shed light specifically on contextual factors. Summary: People’s behaviors are influenced by their relationships, and by the other behaviors they are also engaging in. In this symposium we start with two presentations on the role of relationships in health behaviors. The first examines couples and explores whether people with diabetes are more likely to engage in healthy behavior if their partner does as well. The second looks at the bidirectional relationship between the eating behavior of teenagers and their parents. Then we have a mini-workshop in which we break into small groups and discuss how audience members can incorporate relationship factors in their own work. Next are two presentations on the interplay between multiple health behaviors. The first looks at the effects of exercise on eating behavior, and the second looks at the interplay between eating and coping habits. We end with an audience participation workshop on incorporating contextual aspects into one’s research by using narrative data, which is particularly informative for this purpose.