Academic journal article Family Relations

The Couples Coping Enhancement Training (CCET): A New Approach to Prevention of Marital Distress Based upon Stress and Coping*

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Couples Coping Enhancement Training (CCET): A New Approach to Prevention of Marital Distress Based upon Stress and Coping*

Article excerpt

We describe a distress prevention training program for couples and three empirical studies that support its effectiveness. The program, Couples Coping Enhancement Training (CCET), is based both upon stress and coping theory and research on couples. In addition to traditional elements of couples programs (e.g., communication and problem-solving skills), the CCET also addresses individual and dyadic coping in promoting marital satisfaction and reducing marital distress. The CCET enjoys good consumer acceptance. Outcome results indicate that, in addition to acquiring relationship skills, participants experienced reduced martial distress and increased marital satisfaction, even among couples who have been in longstanding relationships where dissatisfaction exists.

Key Words: coping, education, marriage, prevention, satisfaction, stress.

Programs for preventing marital distress and divorce have experienced an increasing interest among professionals and couples in the last few decades. This interest also is reflected in a growing number of publications on the effectiveness of these programs (e.g., Baucom, Shoham, Mueser, Daiuto, & Stickle, 1998; Halford, Markman, Kline, & Stanley, 2003). Most programs seek to help couples enhance their communication and problem-solving skills with the aim of improving the quality of their relationship, while also decreasing the likelihood of divorce (for an overview, see Berger & Hannah, 1999). These programs are mainly founded in social learning theories, humanistic theory, or communication theory and are based upon the knowledge that communication competencies are among the most important predictors of marital success (see meta-analysis by Karney & Bradbury, 1995). Within this body of empirical knowledge, a new line of research emerged in the 199Os, when different researchers began to investigate in greater detail the effects of stress and coping on marriage.

Here we describe a distress prevention program for couples: Couples Coping Enhancement Training (CCET; Bodenmann, 1997b). We also report the findings from three research studies assessing program effectiveness.

Stress, Marital Quality, and Marital Stability

Several cross-sectional studies of couples from community samples reveal that everyday stress (or daily hassles; see Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) is negatively associated with marital satisfaction and marital quality (for an overview, see Bodenmann, in press). Additionally, psychological stress associated with the illness of one partner is similarly negatively related to marital quality (e.g., Hagedoorn et al., 2000; Rohrbaugh et al., 2002). The negative correlations between stress and marital quality vary between -.22 and -.59, indicating moderate but significant correlations. Although all of the studies published on everyday stress and marriage found this negative relationship, there was no consistent relationship reported between major stressful events (i.e., critical life events) and marital quality. According to Williams (1995), no consistent relationship exists between major stressful events and marital quality, especially when marital matters-such as severe troubles in the relationship, separation, or divorce-were excluded from the list of critical life events. This finding indicates that chronic stress in daily life figures as a more important negative predictor of marital satisfaction and stability (see also Karney, Story, & Bradbury, in press). In a 5-year longitudinal study of 63 couples on the influence of everyday stress and marriage, Bodenmann and Cina (2000) found that couples who were either divorced or among the stable but distressed couples after 5 years had reported a significantly higher rate of stress in everyday life at the time of initial measurement than those in the later group of stable and nondistressed couples.

Stress and Marital Communication

Another line of research shows that marital communication is especially affected by stress. …

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