Does Marriage Education Work?
Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI): A Process Evaluation: the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP®), which focuses. of couple relationship education programs. Presented at the 77th . Oklahoma Higher Education Teaching and Learning Conference. Tulsa, OK. Cottle . Thriving Marriages – Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Curriculum. July OMI trains workshop leaders in the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) curriculum, a premarital education program that addresses.
Methodological Strengths and Weaknesses In this section we use the format in Table 1 as much as possible to review the strengths and weaknesses of the studies conducted on relationship education from to Sample characteristics The samples described in Table 1 included a mix of premarital and marital couples, with most studies either not distinguishing between the two or combining the two groups in analyses.
Many of the studies included cohabiting participants, but most did not indicate how many, nor did they look at differences between married and cohabiting participants. More generally, the couples included in the research reflect the increasing diversity of the field. Studies now include evaluations of interventions for couples with low income levels, unmarried couples with a child together, couples in which one partner has a medical problem, military couples, foster and adoptive parents, step-families, and couples with children.
Thus, good progress continues on the aforementioned recommendations by Halford et al. There have been major strides in the last decade to offer and evaluate services to couples with low-income levels, including the large scale, multi-site evaluation mentioned earlier Wood et al.
Also consistent with the recommendations from the last review paper, we found evaluations of programs that offer services during transition periods. Nevertheless, wide gaps exist between the diversity of those who are participating in research and whom we are serving in practice.
That is, the participants receiving services are not generally included in the studies we have reviewed. Many populations exist that are either underserved or not served at all including: Recently, Whitton and her research team have started to evaluate a relationship education program for gay couples e. We hope that the field will continue to reach out to diverse populations in terms of both delivery of research-based services and the evaluation of these services using rigorous research design in the next decade.
Interventions Several different intervention approaches were evaluated in the last decade. Furthermore, many of the studies in Table 1 were evaluated by researchers who developed, and sometimes delivered, their own interventions. These kinds of research designs may lead to bias in the research. One solution to this potential bias is to have other research teams evaluate programs. In addition, despite the strong recommendation made by Halford et al.
A larger problem for this field is that most relationship education services that are delivered are not being evaluated at all. Thus, linkages between practices as defined by Halford et al. Design As indicated in Table 1there is much diversity in the methodological quality of the studies.
PREP: Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program
On the positive side, there have been several randomized clinical trials RCTs implemented in the last decade. This kind of design is the strongest in terms of establishing effects of an intervention more on RCTs below. Though we did not examine effect sizes, meta-analyses conducted by others Blanchard et al. The majority of the studies conducted in the last decade used weaker designs. In terms of the type of control group, most studies used a no-intervention control group, and the second most frequently used control group was an alternative intervention.
There were no placebo-control group designs to control for attention and expectations, which could provide alternative explanations for positive effects.
Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP)
In research conducted prior to the studies reviewed in the current paper, several studies used placebo controls such as reading a relationship book e. In general, relationship education programs have outperformed placebo control groups. Measuring outcomes The majority of the studies revealed positive effects of relationship education on key indicators of relationship quality including communication quality, conflict management skills and relationship satisfaction.
In addition, very few studies measured other important dimensions of relationship quality including measures of protective factors, such as commitment, friendship, and passion.
Follow-ups The absence of long-term follow-up is notable. More studies need to include longer-term follow-ups, as the vast majority of studies assess outcomes only at post-test. This is a major problem, because the goals of prevention programs are by definition long-term in nature.
In addition, there need to be at least three data points to apply state-of-the-art growth curve analyses to evaluate change over time. Without more assessment points, non-linear effects in relationship education cannot be captured. In general the data that do exist show that long-term follow-up trajectories display a tendency toward attenuation e. However, these findings require replication with a control group and in a randomized clinical trial.
In general, although most researchers recommend booster sessions, few programs use them, fewer studies evaluate them, and those that do have trouble persuading couples to participate e.
Suggested Program of Research and Interventions with Diverse Populations Many of the studies reviewed in Table 1 are not incorporated into a systematic program of planned research. Here, we offer a model for researchers who want to develop a program of research consistent with the best practices for relationship education research. The next step is to pilot the intervention and then use a pre-post, no control group design, to see if there are effects over time and if it is acceptable to the population of interest see Markman et al.
Then, research teams can move first to quasi-experimental studies, then to randomized clinical trials, and finally to dissemination trials. 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.
Relationship Education Research: Current Status and Future Directions
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. 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.6MCD Prevention, Relationship Enhancement Program Course
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. After logging in with the password, you will have one year to complete the course. Oklahoma law requires that you spend at least 4 hours on the premarital course. Our Online Oklahoma premarital course is structured to be completed with exercises and takes at least 4 hours if completed as instructed.
Please follow the Oklahoma statute by spending at least 4 hours on the course. Once you have finished reading through the material and completing the exercises, you will need to take the quiz.
Please take your time and fill out the information accurately. It often takes three to four days for mail to reach Oklahoma so please plan ahead. In the event you need your certificate, earlier, we can overnight it but there will be an additional charge. Call us about any questions you may have. The clerk of the district court shall reduce the fee for a marriage license as prescribed by Section 31 of Title 28 of the Oklahoma Statutes to persons who have successfully completed a premarital counseling program meeting the conditions specified by this section.
Upon successful completion of the program, the counseling program provider shall issue to the persons a certificate signed by the instructor of the counseling program.