Academic journal article Family Relations

The Perceived Relationship Knowledge Scale: An Initial Validation

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Perceived Relationship Knowledge Scale: An Initial Validation

Article excerpt

Couple relationship education (CRE) formats have become increasingly varied. A relatively common feature of CRE is a focus on relationship knowledge and skill acquisition (Markman & Halford, 2005). Brief formats are also becoming common. However, brief or lowintensity CRE may not create immediate behavior change, and its subsequent impact on behavior may be commensurately narrow and modest. Because gains in relationship knowledge may be an indicator of future behavior change, perceptions of relationship knowledge is an intermediate outcome variable that may be relatively more sensitive to short-term change. Thus, a measure of knowledge may be especially appropriate for use in brief CRE and other brief couple interventions.

The purpose of this study is to describe an instrument designed to assess relationship knowledge, the Perceived Relationship Knowledge Scale (PRKS), and to test its psychometric properties. Perceived relationship knowledge in this study is conceptualized as the respondents' assessments of their individual knowledge, awareness, and understanding of interpersonal interactions that nurture healthy couple relationships. We discuss the construct of relationship knowledge principally in the context of couple relationship education. The measure's items reflect basic content of CRE programs, including effective listening, conflict resolution, problem solving, closeness, friendship, and spending time together.

Couple Relationship Education

CRE has expanded over the past decade. Increased funding in the United States has contributed to this expansion (Hawkins et al., 2009), including the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 which made $150 million dollars in grants available annually to support healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood programs. There is evidence that CRE is effective in helping couples improve their relationship quality and communication. In a meta-analysis of 117 studies, Hawkins, Blanchard, Baldwin, and Fawcett (2008) found CRE had an effect size on relationship quality ranging from d = .24 to .36, whereas the effect sizes on communication skills ranged from d = .36 to .54. Low-dosage programs (1 - 8 hours) had lower effect sizes in the areas of relationship quality and communication when compared with medium-dosage programs (9 - 20 hours): d = .18 for relationship quality and d = .21 for communication. Although low-dosage programs produced lower effect sizes than the medium-dosage programs, the benefits included financial practicality and the potential to raise awareness of CRE and ultimately attract more participants (Hawkins, Carroll, Doherty, & Willoughby, 2004).

Despite this evidence, there is debate about the efficacy of CRE, particularly among minority and low-income (typically high stress) participants (Johnson, 2012, 2013). Most agree, however, that an empirical approach is needed. Scholars have noted that CRE outcome variables are often limited in range and have recommended that a broader array of variables be examined (Hawkins et al., 2008). Low-dosage CRE may be less likely to have an immediate impact on behavior but may have impact on intermediate phenomena such as relationship knowledge; this is especially likely if the curriculum emphasizes understanding of healthy relationship interactions, for example. Intermediate impact of light-dosage programming might be detected in terms of perceptions of relationship knowledge. Part of this rationale is that behavioral constructs are different from knowledge: communication and relationship quality are at least somewhat rooted in behavior, whereas relationship knowledge is primarily cognitive by nature. Likewise, couple communication and marital quality give essential information about behavioral processes in couple relationships that knowledge does not. Because of its role in relationship patterns, relationship knowledge (i.e., knowledge, awareness, and understanding of interpersonal interactions that nurture healthy couple relationships) is a potentially promising outcome variable to measure in couple interventions. …

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