Academic journal article Family Relations

The Role of Participant-Facilitator Demographic Match in Couple and Relationship Education

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Role of Participant-Facilitator Demographic Match in Couple and Relationship Education

Article excerpt

Offerings of couple and relationship education in recent years have included more diverse populations of participants, as well as more diverse facilitators in community-based program delivery. As a result, the opportunity has emerged to examine contextual factors that may impact program effects. This study examined the relationship between participant-facilitator demographic match of ethnicity, sex, education, and relationship status on reported facilitator quality and program outcomes, as well as the relationship between facilitator quality and program outcomes. Results indicated that sex match was related to facilitator quality. Relationship status match was related to change in couple functioning, and education match was related to change in individual functioning. Additionally, facilitator quality was related to program outcomes. Findings suggest the value of adopting an additive approach to program implementation, in which facilitation quality and skills and similarity between participant and facilitator are considered.

Key Words: couple/marriage education, demographic match, facilitator, relationship education.

Recently, advances have been made in the study of couple and relationship education (CRE) through the implementation and study of experiences among more diverse populations (Adler-Baeder et al., 2010; Hawkins & Fackrell, 2010; Stanley, Alien, Markman, Rhoades, & Prentice, 2010). Because studies in previous decades utilized mostly homogenous samples of married or premarital European American, middle-class couples (Halford, Markman, & Stanley, 2008; Hawkins, Blanchard, Baldwin, & Fawcett, 2008), the focus was limited to assessments of program effects for the full sample of participants. With the increasing access to CRE for participants diverse in ethnicity and socioeconomic status, opportunities to examine possible variations in experiences are available. In addition, previous university-based CRE programs offered limited variability in facilitator background. With the increase in CRE offerings for diverse populations, many programs involve community-based delivery by facilitators with more diverse backgrounds (Ooms & Wilson, 2004) and offer the opportunity to explore variations among facilitators. The use of an ecocultural lens (Phenice, Griffore, Hakoyama, & Silvey, 2009) involves the consideration of differing cultural contexts that may influence the program experience for individual participants and calls for investigations of intervening factors that can include characteristics of the participants, characteristics of the program facilitators, and combinations of these variables.

In studies of intervention, increasing attention is given to discussion of cultural differences as antecedents of change. As programs and research include more diverse populations, scholars assert that such characteristics as education, ethnicity, and sex are likely to have a significant impact on an individual's experience and suggest that these must be considered during intervention (see Hawkins, Carroll, Doherty, & Willoughby, 2004; LaRoche & Maxie, 2003; Ooms & Wilson, 2004; Phenice et al., 2009). Their assertions align with the evidence in some clinical research that clients prefer a therapist who is similar in sex and ethnicity (Atkinson, Furlong, & Posten, 1986; Atkinson & Lowe, 1995; Atkinson, Poston, Furlong, & Mercado, 1989; Atkinson, Wampold, Matthews, & Ahn, 1 998; Constantine, 2001) and may experience better outcomes when they have a therapist similar to themselves (Atkinson & Schein, 1986).

Recently, Higginbotham and Myler (2010) published the first study of CRE with more diverse participants and facilitators in which facilitator characteristics were explicitly examined as predictors of participants' assessments of facilitator and program quality. Rather than a straightforward examination of facilitator demographics, they assessed the "match" between participant and facilitator on several key variables (i. …

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