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!®

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!®

Article excerpt

Couples can improve their marriages by implementing relationship building skills they learn while participating in a marriage education program. This study addresses how marriages improved as a result of participating in the marriage education program, Married and Loving It!® and what specific components of the learning experience facilitated the change. Using grounded theory methodology, the data collected from 12 participants, six married couples through in depth semi-structured interviews, revealed how participating in Married and Loving It! ® can assist couples in improving their relationships by guiding them through a developmental process. It is through skill development and a greater understanding of themselves and their spouse; couples are able to make positive changes in their behaviors and attitudes which influence their marriages. Key Words: Marriage Education, Marriage Enrichment, Couples Education, Adult Learning, Grounded Theory, and Program Evaluation

Introduction

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!® 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!® 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!® Over 400 people in Idaho have participated in the program and the curriculum has been distributed to over 45 states and seven foreign countries. …

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