Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Patricia J. Morokoff

Abstract

Relational agent (RA) health interventions are slowly becoming part of the health behavior change field. The current assessed participants’ experience in a 12-month long internet and RA intervention for physical activity (PA) and sun protection, using primarily a qualitative approach. Two groups were recruited. Group 1 consisted of participants who completed the intervention. Group 2 consisted of participants who accessed the intervention only two or three times. Thirty-four participants were recruited for group1 and eight participants for group 2. A standardized semi-structured open-ended interview was used for data collection. Two interview scripts were developed and consisted of twenty-five questions (group1) and ten questions (group 2) that assessed different components of participants’ experiences with the program, including motivation, engagement, satisfaction/dissatisfaction, interaction with a RA, and behavior change. Manifest content analysis and latent content analysis were used to assess participants’ responses. An analysis of variance was used to assess levels of satisfaction between men and women. The study results showed, overall, participants in group 1 were motivated, satisfied with the intervention, liked the relational agent and reported behavior change in PA and sun protection. Conversely, most participants in group 2 were dissatisfied with the intervention, disliked the RA and reported no behavior change. No gender effect was noted for satisfaction. The implications of these results, including the importance of RA intervention and qualitative methods in health behavior change, are discussed.

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