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Relationship Quality and Health Among Black Same-Sex Male Couples: Protocol for a Symbolic Netnography Study

JM Lassiter, J Dacus, MO Johnson

JMIR Research Protocols

BackgroundAcross a range of studies, health scientists have found that being in a romantic relationship can have positive and negative influences on one’s health. A couple’s health outcomes are often influenced by relationship quality—or how they perceive the positive or negative character of their relationship. These findings have important implications for how scientists and interventionists may leverage romantic relationships facilitating good health among couples. However, in general, couples research has not included Black same-sex male couples in large enough numbers to make previous studies’ findings relevant to them. This represents a gap in the scientific literature and, more importantly, a missed opportunity to understand how romantic relationships influence health for a group that must navigate distinct, multilevel health and social inequities.

ObjectiveThis study aims to (1) decode and understand the ways in which Black same-sex male couples express their romantic relationships in virtual contexts via symbolic indicators, (2) determine how Black same-sex male couples describe the quality of their romantic relationships, and (3) explore how Black same-sex male couples make meaning of their relationship quality and its impact on their relational and individual health.

MethodsWe will use joint dyadic interviews embedded within a symbolic netnography research design to accomplish our aims. We will use grounded theory to analyze our qualitative data. We will then triangulate our findings to determine how well they answer our research questions.

ResultsThis study received ethical approval on October 8, 2020 and we began data collection in November 2020. Results are expected to be available no later than December 31, 2022.

ConclusionsThis study will apply novel symbolic netnographic qualitative methods to further our understanding of Black same-sex male couples’ romantic relationships and how they contribute to their health. The findings will be used to develop programs to improve Black same-sex male couples’ health in community and virtual settings.

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