Are College Marriage Textbooks Teaching Students the Premarital Predictors of Marital Quality?*
Larson, Jeffry H., Hickman, Rachel, Family Relations
We evaluated 10 college marriage textbooks for their efficacy in teaching the premarital predictors of marital quality identified in the literature. They also were evaluated on their use of an integrative teaching approach that personalizes the content for readers and assists readers in learning, remembering, and using the information in their own lives. Four evaluators assessed the content and teaching methods in each book. Results showed that only 4 of the 10 textbooks covered two thirds or more of the premarital predictors, and none of the books used an integrative teaching approach consistently. Implications for improving these books, adding supplementary materials on premarital predictors to college courses, and increasing the use of integrative teaching methods in these books are discussed.
Key Words: college, marital quality, marriage, premarital predictors, textbooks.
(Family Relations, 2004, 53, 385-392)
Over the last 2 decades, several college marriage and family textbook content reviews were published, and a number of selected topics were examined. These topics included stepfamilies (Coleman, Ganong, & Goodwin, 1994); abortion and adoption (Hall & Stolley, 1997); minorities (Shaw-Taylor & Benokraitis, 1995); gender issues (Hall, 1988); and the elderly (Stolley & Hill, 1996). More recently, Glenn (1997) evaluated 20 textbooks to determine their adequacy in preparing students to make family decisions, such as when to marry, and participating in public discussions on family issues. Glenn concluded that "The quality of college-level education about marriages and families depends heavily on the textbooks available for adoption" (p. 197).
College marriage textbooks serve several purposes for a diverse group of students in the average college course on marriage and family. They assist students in making choices about singlehood, mate selection, cohabitation, heterosexual and homosexual relationships, marriage, and so on. Some students in these courses are already married or divorced and seek guidance on creating marital stability, and or adjusting to divorce or remarriage. They also provide scholarly and clinical information and advice that students can use in choosing a career in a family profession.
We contend that another important outcome for these textbooks is the reader's subsequent ability to answer key questions: What does it take to be happily married? What specific premarital factors contribute to my ability to have a satisfying and stable marriage? How do I evaluate myself and my relationship based on these factors? What can I do to improve myself and my current relationship before marriage? Where are good resources to help me with the self-improvement process? Thus, the purpose of this study was to evaluate select marriage textbooks to answer three important questions:
1. How well do they teach students the premarital predictors of marital satisfaction and stability (i.e., marital quality)?
2. How well do they incorporate an integrative teaching approach to assist students in learning and personalizing the text material on premarital predictors?
3. What improvements should be made in the coverage of factors and the use of integrative teaching methods?
Armed with the knowledge of what predicts a successful marriage, individuals are better prepared to assess specific individual and couple characteristics that are strengths and risk factors for attention prior to marriage. They also should know what characteristics to look for in a potential spouse and relationship, because the characteristics of couples and the individuals affect the future quality of those marriages (Stanley, 2001). When mate selection and a decision to marry is approached with such foreknowledge, self-awareness, and dedication to self-improvement, the likelihood of better mate selection and marital satisfaction and stability increase.
The second contention of our study was that college marriage textbooks should use an integrative teaching approach. …