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      Usability and Acceptability of a Smartphone App to Assess Partner Communication, Closeness, Mood, and Relationship Satisfaction: Mixed Methods Study

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          Abstract

          Background

          Interpersonal communication is critical for a healthy romantic relationship. Emotional disclosure, coupled with perceived partner responsiveness, fosters closeness and adjustment (better mood and relationship satisfaction). On the contrary, holding back from disclosure is associated with increased distress and decreased relationship satisfaction. Prior studies assessing these constructs have been cross-sectional and have utilized global retrospective reports of communication. In addition, studies assessing holding back or perceived partner responsiveness have not taken advantage of smartphone ownership for data collection and have instead required website access or use of a study-provided device.

          Objective

          This study aimed to examine the (1) usability and acceptability of a smartphone app designed to assess partner communication, closeness, mood, and relationship satisfaction over 14 days and (2) between-person versus within-person variability of key constructs to inform the utility of their capture via ecological momentary assessment using the participants’ own handheld devices.

          Methods

          Adult community volunteers in a married or cohabiting partnered relationship received 2 smartphone prompts per day, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, for 14 days. In each prompt, participants were asked whether they had conversed with their partner either since awakening (afternoon prompt) or since the last assessment (evening prompt). If yes, a series of items assessed enacted communication, perceived partner communication, closeness, mood, and relationship satisfaction (evening only). Participants were interviewed by phone, 1 week after the end of the 14-day phase, to assess perceptions of the app. Content analysis was employed to identify key themes.

          Results

          Participants (N=27; mean age 36, SD 12 years; 24/27, 89% female; 25/27, 93% white and 2/27, 7% Hispanic) responded to 79.2% (555/701) of the total prompts sent and completed 553 (78.9%) of those assessments. Of the responded prompts, 79.3% (440/555) were characterized by a report of having conversed with one’s partner. The app was seen as highly convenient (mean 4.15, SD 0.78, scale: 1-5) and easy to use (mean 4.39, SD 0.70, scale: 1-5). Qualitative analyses indicated that participants found the app generally easy to navigate, but the response window too short (45 min) and the random nature of receiving notifications vexing. With regard to the variability of the app-delivered items, intraclass correlation coefficients were generally <0.40, indicating that the majority of the variability in each measure was at the within-person level. Notable exceptions were enacted disclosure and relationship satisfaction.

          Conclusions

          The findings of this study support the usability and acceptability of the app, with valuable user input to modify timing windows in future work. The findings also underscore the utility of an intensive repeated-measures approach, given the meaningful day-to-day variation (greater within-person vs between-person variability) in communication and mood.

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          Most cited references 46

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          Measuring Dyadic Adjustment: New Scales for Assessing the Quality of Marriage and Similar Dyads

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            Diary methods: capturing life as it is lived.

            In diary studies, people provide frequent reports on the events and experiences of their daily lives. These reports capture the particulars of experience in a way that is not possible using traditional designs. We review the types of research questions that diary methods are best equipped to answer, the main designs that can be used, current technology for obtaining diary reports, and appropriate data analysis strategies. Major recent developments include the use of electronic forms of data collection and multilevel models in data analysis. We identify several areas of research opportunities: 1. in technology, combining electronic diary reports with collateral measures such as ambulatory heart rate; 2. in measurement, switching from measures based on between-person differences to those based on within-person changes; and 3. in research questions, using diaries to (a) explain why people differ in variability rather than mean level, (b) study change processes during major events and transitions, and (c) study interpersonal processes using dyadic and group diary methods.
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              Ecological Momentary Assessment

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                JMIR Form Res
                JMIR Form Res
                JFR
                JMIR Formative Research
                JMIR Publications (Toronto, Canada )
                2561-326X
                July 2020
                6 July 2020
                : 4
                : 7
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Arizona State University Phoenix, AZ United States
                [2 ] Clinical Research Division Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Seattle, WA United States
                [3 ] Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Arizona State University Phoenix, AZ United States
                [4 ] Counseling and Counseling Psychology College of Integrative Sciences and Arts Arizona State University Phoenix, AZ United States
                [5 ] Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences School of Medicine University of Washington Seattle, WA United States
                [6 ] Division of Public Health Sciences Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Seattle, WA United States
                [7 ] Department of Psychology University of Washington Seattle, WA United States
                [8 ] Department of Psychology Columbia University New York, NY United States
                [9 ] Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Rush Medical College Rush University Chicago, IL United States
                [10 ] Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences School of Medicine Duke University Durham, NC United States
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Shelby L Langer shelby.langer@ 123456asu.edu
                Article
                v4i7e14161
                10.2196/14161
                7381078
                32628614
                ©Shelby L Langer, Neeta Ghosh, Michael Todd, Ashley K Randall, Joan M Romano, Jonathan B Bricker, Niall Bolger, John W Burns, Rachel C Hagan, Laura S Porter. Originally published in JMIR Formative Research (http://formative.jmir.org), 06.07.2020.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Formative Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://formative.jmir.org, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

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