Academic journal article Family Relations

Perceived Helpfulness of Four Different Types of Marriage Preparation Interventions

Academic journal article Family Relations

Perceived Helpfulness of Four Different Types of Marriage Preparation Interventions

Article excerpt

As evidence of the benefits of marriage preparation continues to mount, so does the importance of investigating the characteristics of the interventions that are most helpful and for whom. In a sample of 1,409 individuals, this study compares perceived helpfulness of four marriage preparation interventions: class, community/church sponsored workshop, counseling, and self-directed. All interventions were perceived as helpful, but class and self-directed learning were rated more highly than counseling and workshops, independent of gender. Class and self-directed learning participants had the highest improvement scores overall, with women reporting greater positive change than men. Implications for marriage preparation interventions are discussed.

Key Words: marriage education, marriage preparation, premarital interventions.

Marriage preparation interventions have been around for decades, with the earliest interventions dating back to the 1930s (Stahmann & Salts, 1993). Recent studies have shown that marriage preparation interventions bring measured benefits. For example, Carroll and Doherty (2003) found that participants in marriage preparation were better off than 79% of nonparticipants. Other studies have confirmed the benefits of marriage preparation (Giblin, Sprenkle, & Sheehan, 1985; Stanley, 2001; Stanley & Markman, 1997; Williams, Riley, Risch, & VanDyke, 1999). These benefits include enhanced communication and conflict management skills, more commitment to one's mate, greater positivity in marriage, and reduced chances for divorce (Stanley; Stanley, Amato, Johnson, & Markman, 2006).

As evidence of the benefits of marriage preparation continues to mount, so does the importance of investigating the characteristics of the interventions that are most helpful - and importantly - who benefits most. Currently, more emphasis is paid to assessing program outcomes in marriage education than to systematically determining the characteristics of the authence that benefits (DeMaria, 2005). Understanding the characteristics of a target authence and favored interventions is critical to the development of targeted programs (Dumka, Roosa, Michaels, & Suh, 1995; Hawkins, Carroll, Doherty, & Willoughby, 2004), marketing the programs to those who need them most (Weinrich, 1999), and ensuring that the resulting programs are relevant and based on identified needs of the authence (Duncan & Goddard, 2005; Larson & Halford, in press).

There are numerous approaches to marriage preparation. The earliest roots trace back to premarital counseling done by churches (Schumm & Denton, 1979), expanding to other professionals. Community-based marriage preparation education often takes the form of multisession offerings, retreats, or short workshops. Some colleges and universities offer full-length courses in marriage preparation or marriage strengthening (Nielsen, Pinsof, Rampage, Solomon, & Goldstein, 2004). Self-directed means in the form of flexible delivery programs (Halford, Moore, Wilson, Farrugia, & Dyer, 2004), books (Gottman & Silver, 1999), Internet sites (Duncan, Steed, & Needham, 2009), online courses, and inventories (Busby, Holman, & Taniguchi, 2001) are also increasingly available. Although few if any efforts have been made to compare marriage preparation education community-based programs to each other in terms of outcomes (Carroll & Doherty, 2003), even less effort has been devoted to assessing levels of perceived helpfulness across broader categories of interventions, interventions' comparative abilities to trigger measurable change in participants, and factors predicting levels of helpfulness and change.

COMPARATIVE HELPFULNESS OF MARRIAGE PREPARATION INTERVENTIONS

Carroll and Doherty's (2003) meta-analysis found no experimental studies that directly compared different models or programs of premarital education; further, they found no significant advantages in types of formats or approaches in the various premarital education programs available. …

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