The impacts of interventions designed to change health behaviours are potentially affected by the complex social systems in which they are embedded. This study uses Scottish data to explore how men receive and utilise partner support when attempting to change dietary practices and physical activity within the context of Football Fans in Training (FFIT), a gender-sensitised weight management and healthy living programme for men who are overweight/obese.
Separate semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 20 men and their cohabiting female partners (total n = 40), 3–12 months after the men had completed FFIT. Data were thematically analysed and individual interviews were combined for dyadic analysis.
Men’s and women’s accounts suggested variations in men’s need for, and utilisation of, partner support in order to make changes to dietary practices and physical activity. There were also differences in descriptions of women’s involvement in men’s behaviour changes. Typologies were developed categorising men as ‘resolute’, ‘reliant’/‘receptive’ and ‘non-responsive’ and women as ‘very involved’, ‘partially involved’ and ‘not involved’. Men were more reliant, and women more involved, in changes to dietary practices compared to physical activity. The role of partner involvement in promoting men’s behaviour change seemed contingent on men’s resoluteness, or their reliance on the partner support.
These results highlight how interactions between men’s resoluteness/reliance on cohabiting female partners and the partners’ involvement impact the extent to which female partners influence men’s changes to dietary practices and physical activity following a weight loss intervention. Understanding this interaction could increase the impact of health interventions aimed at one individual’s behaviour by considering other family members’ roles in facilitating those changes. The typologies developed for this study might contribute towards the development of behaviour change theories within the cohabiting couple context.