C. Juergens, A. Reifman, E. Sharp, & J. Fischer

Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

INTRODUCTION: Maintaining and competing in triathlon Ironman (IM) (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) or Olympic (1500m swim, 30k bike, 10k run) events requires tremendous work, discipline, and sacrifice. USA Triathlon (USAT) reports an increase in triathlon memberships from 21,000 in 2000 to over 115,000 in 2009 (2012). Demographics also show overall female membership grew from 27-38% and that 64% of the members were married or in a committed relationship (2009). How the demanding lifestyle of triathlon is negotiated within triathlete couples is largely overlooked in the literature. PURPOSE: To use themes identified in an exploratory qualitative investigation to develop a closed-end quantitative measure to assess relationship dynamics in dual triathlete couples. METHODS: This four-part research project was conducted at four different triathlons across a five year period (2004-2009). Participants were recruited by word of mouth and by posters hung in the Expo Area; each completed a demographic sheet and signed an IRB subject release form. The pilot study interviewed six couples competing at the 2004 IM World Championships to explore personal and interpersonal relationship dynamics; this led to the development of a quantitative scale administered in three subsequent studies. RESULTS: Grounded theory analysis of interview data identified two themes pertinent to this project: (a) couples tended to endorse egalitarian attitudes and, (b) couples were highly compatible (Study #1). These results led to creating a 36-item Dual Triathlete Couple Relationship (DTCR) scale used with the Gender Role Attitude (GRA) scale to assess egalitarian attitudes. Eighty couples who were competing at one of two IM events in 2005 and 2006 completed surveys (Study #2). Factor analysis and psychometric tests reduced the 36-item DTCR to 24-items (α = .77). The GRA scale t-test results showed that women’s attitudes were significantly higher or more egalitarian (M =5.06, SD = 0.51) compared to men’s attitudes (M = 4.93, SD = 0.51), t(77) = 2.24, p < 0.05, r = 0.25). The new DTCR scale was tested with 30 couples at the 2008 USAT Age Group Nationals (Study #3). Significant results were found: women’s DTCR scores were significantly higher or more egalitarian (M = 4.55, SD = .48) compared to men’s DTCR scores (M = 4.33, SD = .37), t(28) = 2.05, p < 0.05, r = .16). The final study was conducted at the Collegiate National Championships in spring 2009 (Study #4). Ninety-six student-athletes participated (37 women; 58 men); mixed findings for both scales are discussed. CONCLUSIONS: Recommendation is made to obtain a more representative sample by possibly using an online web-based system.

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