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The overarching aim of this paper is to review research on relationship education programs and approaches that have been published or accepted for. We offer a variety of relationship education courses. Participating in one of these courses can bring many rewards. It can help you connect with others, as well as. In this Sunday's Washington Post magazine is a lengthy and largely laudatory story about marriage and relationship education programs.
It is also important to have other researchers cross-validate findings to ensure that results are not biased. Some research teams have been successful in moving studies in a laboratory setting i.
While more research is needed, evaluations of dissemination studies have yielded promising findings e. Thus, there is emerging evidence from the past decade that research-based programs developed in university settings are transportable to a number of community settings see also Wood et al. The transportability of relationship education constitutes one of the major accomplishments in the field because we have now reached hundreds of thousands of people since the last review, including close to a quarter of a million people in Oklahoma alone Ooms, To show that a mechanism of change is operating, evaluations first must show that the targets of the intervention e.
The findings presented in Table 1 and meta-analyses e. Most of the studies reviewed in Table 1 as well as studies from prior decades show that couples improve their ability to communicate from pre to post assessment compared to control groups.
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However, mixed findings emerge when researchers examine the extent to which changes in such target variables are associated with other outcomes of interest. In at least one case, the findings were not in the predicted direction see Schilling et al.
However, these results may be attributable to correlations between husband and wife interactions that were not taken into account Stanley et al. Nonetheless, the existing body of research on mechanisms of change in relationships leaves much to be discovered.
Future work should continue to attempt to identify why programs are successful and what the key ingredients are to helping couples and individuals improve their relationships. The relationship education and marital therapy field can benefit from following the lead of the conduct disorder and substance abuse fields both of which as demonstrated stronger evidence for mechanism of change of therapeutic interventions in these areas.
Moderators Moderators are also very important to consider when evaluating relationship education programs. Here, the questions revolve around the extent to which a program works differently and produces different outcomes for one group versus another. A major issue in the field that has emerged in the last decade, for example, is whether relationship education programs work better for high risk e.
The answers to questions about which groups benefit more or less are decidedly mixed and moderators remain a burning topic for the next decade to tackle.
Wadsworth and Markman in press provide a more detailed discussion of moderator effects. One of the most interesting research issues in the field is how to design a randomized clinical trial. We focus on these projects because their very large sample sizes and in-depth measurement mean that they have the power to make a significant impact on this field in the coming decade.
Just as there are many ways to have a good relationship, there are many ways to do a very good randomized clinical trial.
Both of these studies focus on the effectiveness of relationship education delivered by community organizations to couples with low-income levels. Thus, these projects are evaluations of relationship education in general, not a particular approach to relationship education see www. With regard to the design of these RCTs, both projects include random assignment of couples to either relationship education or a no-treatment control group.
An intent-to-treat approach is more common in studies evaluating the implementation of a program rather than the effectiveness of a specific curriculum and it involves analyzing data from all participants as they were randomized, regardless of whether they completed the intervention.
Another characteristic that different about these studies versus most studies in this field is that neither of them conducted what are typical pre assessments, wherein which key outcome variables are measured before the intervention. Instead, they collected baseline information on demographics and are now collecting data at planned intervals post-intervention. The rationale for not conducting pre-assessments is that random assignment of couples to conditions assures that all pre-test variables, if collected, would be equal across groups.
Avoiding a comprehensive pre-assessment also decreases the risk of the assessment serving as an unmeasureable intervention in itself. Under these assumptions, comparing groups at follow-up assessment points will answer the research questions effectively. Although this makes sense, uncertainty remains because pre-test differences may exist due to unplanned selection effects or chance occurrences e. In addition, because there are no pre-post data, questions regarding mechanisms of change cannot be directly investigated.
In our own work, even with random assignment, we sometimes have significant pre-test differences. However, we know these differences exist and we have the option of dealing with the differences in our analyses. Using propensity scores to handle group differences in quasi-experimental designs may also be used in RCTs when pre-test differences exist David Atkins, personal communication, May, Further discussion as how best to deal with such differences is beyond the scope of this paper.
Another issue in RCTs involves the recruitment of couples. Three strategies have been used in the field: In other words, couples do not know anything about the intervention until after completing the basic research.
In this scenario, you might get more attrition from couples in the control group since they were denied an intervention in which they were interested. In this approach, assignment to a group happens after pre-assessment.
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Department of Health and Human Services began funding significant multi-year demonstration projects through the Administration for Children and Families to expand the availability of marriage education classes in more than communities nationwide. This project, known as the " Healthy Marriage Initiative ," was designed to improve the well-being of children by providing tools and education to strengthen marriages and families.
Larson conducted several studies on marriage and relationship education, including a review of three widely used premarital inventories - Focus, Prepare, and Relate. Using meta-analytic methods of current best practices to look across the entire body of published and unpublished evaluation research on premarital education, we found a more complex pattern of results.
In contrast, premarital education programs appear to be effective at improving couple communication, with studies that employed observational measures rather than self-report measures producing large effects. Still, given the mixed, modest results, there is ample room and a real need to improve the practice of premarital education. Department of Health and Human ServicesAdministration for Children and Families"to learn whether well-designed interventions can help couples fulfill their aspirations for a healthy relationship, marriage, and a strong family.
BSF had no effect on whether couples were still together 15 months after they had applied for the program, when data from the eight BSF programs are combined. At this point, 76 percent of BSF couples were still romantically involved, compared with 77 percent of control group couples. Similarly, BSF and control group couples were equally likely to be married to each other at that time 17 and 18 percent respectively and to be living together, whether married or unmarried 62 percent for both research groups.
Similarly, BSF and control group couples gave very similar ratings of supportiveness and affection in their relationships, with average support and affection scale values of 3. In addition, BSF had no overall effect on how faithful couples were to each other. Similarly, there was no difference between the research groups in the avoidance of destructive conflict behaviors, such as withdrawing when there is a disagreement or allowing small disagreements to escalate.
The Building Strong Families study of RE programs to help lower-income unmarried parents strengthen their relationships showed few positive effects, although there was an important, positive family stability effect at the Oklahoma site of the study three years after the program. This study found a lot of statistically significant positive effects, but they were small in magnitude.
Well, now we have more data. ACF has funded the most rigorous evaluation work on the effectiveness of RE programs. The RE programs covered pretty standard topics with participants receiving, on average, about hours of instruction. Most couples were economically stressed and had limited education. The researchers followed the couples for about one year after the program to assess the program effects.
A longer summary of these findings can be found here.Sunrise Session - Relationship Education: Skills for Couples, Parents and Stepfamilies
Compared to the no-treatment control group couples: PACT couples reported somewhat greater statistically significantly relationship commitment one year after the program. This was driven mostly by improvements in commitment among those who were not married when they began the program.
PACT couples reported slightly more statistically significantly relationship warmth, support, affection, and friendship one year after the program. These differences were driven primarily by couples who were married at the beginning of the program. PACT couples reported slightly less statistically significantly destructive conflict behavior one year after the program.
Again, this difference was driven primarily by couples who were married at the beginning of the program.
A New Government Study Finds Positive Impacts of Relationship Education Programs
The slight difference in constructive conflict behavior e. Perhaps related to less destructive conflict behavior, PACT women experienced significantly less physical assault e. This was more about married couples staying married, however, than unmarried couples getting married. In fact, the biggest effect in the entire study was for marital status for those who were married at the beginning of the program.
PACT couples reported somewhat higher statistically significant levels of effective co-parenting behavior one year after the program.
PACT women reported somewhat lower statistically significant levels of depressive symptoms. The difference was not significant for men, however. Note that most of these effects, though statistically significant, were fairly small with effect sizes between.
The magnitude of these effects are comparable to effects found in many other evaluation studies of other social welfare polices if they find effects at all and they were a little larger than what was found in the Supporting Healthy Marriages study.