Goal disengagement in health behavior change: examining affective and behavioral consequences within romantic couples


  • C. Berli
  • J. Lüscher
  • U. Scholz


Background: Disengaging from goals has not yet received much attention as an adaptive function in regulating health behavior change. We aimed to investigate the effects of goal disengagement on well-being and behavioral goal achievement in everyday life within a dyadic context of couples aiming to adopt physical activity (Study 1) or to quit smoking (Study 2). Methods: In two daily diary studies (Study 1: 61 overweight couples, Study 2: 83 dual-smoker couples), both partners independently reported on goal disengagement, and positive and negative affect. Additionally, couples wore accelerometer to objectively assess behavioral goal achievement (Study 1), and reported on their smoking behavior (Study 2). Results: Multilevel dyadic analyses based on the Actor-Partner-Interdependence-Model (APIM) revealed that across both studies, one’s own goal disengagement was related to lower daily well-being and a lower likelihood for goal achievement (actor effects). Only in study 1, partner effects emerged in that one’s partner’s goal disengagement predicted higher negative affect and lower goal achievement. Conclusions: In daily life, goal disengagement may not serve as an adaptive form of regulation when pursuing health behavior change. The findings suggest that goal disengagement may be relevant at the dyadic level when adopting physical activity, but more research is needed to establish such effects across different health-related contexts.