Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Developing the Art of Becoming a Couple: A Grounded Theory Study of the Positive Influence of Married and Loving It![R]

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Developing the Art of Becoming a Couple: A Grounded Theory Study of the Positive Influence of Married and Loving It![R]

Article excerpt


Couples choose marriage for themselves hoping to build a future with one special person. According to the National Marriage Resource Center (2009, para. 5), "eighty two percent of young adults aged 18-30 plan to get married and stay married for life. However, approximately 40% of first marriages end in divorce."

Marriage education programs, also known as marriage enrichment programs, have emerged as opportunities to assist couples in the development of a healthy marriage relationship. A review of marriage education showed marital education programs consistently lead to an improvement of communication skills and relationship satisfaction (Halford, Markman, Kline, & Stanley, 2003). A meta-analytic review of 117 studies found Marriage and Relationship Education (MRE) to produce significant, moderate effect sizes on the outcomes of relationship quality and communication skills (Hawkins, Blanchard, Baldwin, & Fawcett, 2008), and a meta-analysis review of outcome research of premarital prevention programs revealed these programs to be effective in gains in interpersonal skills and overall relationship quality (Carroll & Doherty, 2003). Although comprehensive literature reviews indicate marriage enrichment programs are effective in improving relationship skills and marital satisfaction (Silliman, Stanley, Coffin, Markman, & Jordan, 2001), there is a lack of information about the effectiveness of specific programs (Bowling, Hill, & Jencius, 2005; Jakubowski, Milne, Brunner, & Miller, 2004) and the process of change facilitating the improved marriage relationship (Wilson & Halford, 2008).

While quantitative research has been the primary methodology used for the majority of studies conducted on marriage, qualitative research can complement that work by helping to understand the marriage education experience of individuals and couples in the process of change and how the marriage education experience specifically assists couples in improving marital relationships. Results from a previous study of Married and Loving It![R] participants, a research-based marriage education program which has been in use since 2000, indicate overall marital satisfaction increased after participating in the program (Petty, 2003). The present qualitative study was designed to gain further understanding of the positive changes in the marriage through participating in Married and Loving It![R] and what specific components of the learning experience facilitated the change.

Program Overview

As an Extension Educator with the University of Idaho, I provide family life education to county residents in response to identified needs. After receiving a request for marriage education and not finding a program to fit our educational setting, my husband and I developed Married and Loving It![R] Over 400 people in Idaho have participated in the program and the curriculum has been distributed to over 45 states and seven foreign countries. Evaluations completed during the last class of the program have resulted in simple statements addressing the participant's satisfaction with the program, knowledge gain and initial changes in behavior. However there is a lack of in-depth scholarly research to gain additional knowledge as to the impact of the marriage education experience on the marriage relationship and the teaching components of the learning experience facilitating the change of an improved marriage. Adult educators are most effective when they know what specific aspects of the educational experience have the greatest impact for the participants.

Married and Loving It![R] is a marriage education program designed to strengthen marriage relationships by presenting research-based information about successful and happy couples and by teaching relationship enhancement skills through a series of five classes. Classes are offered one night a week for two hours for five consecutive weeks or over a weekend. …

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