| MAIN ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE
END-OF-YEAR HOLIDAY CLOSING – ADVANCE NOTICE
Please note that the PREPARE-ENRICH Processing Centre will
close on Wednesday 19th December 2007 and reopen on Monday 7th January
ENCOURAGING NEW ADMINISTRATORS
Please let your colleagues know about PREPARE-ENRICH and tell them about
our website (www.prepare-enrich.com.au). On that site they can read information
about all the PREPARE materials and resources. By clicking on the training
link on the Administrators' homepage, they can locate a workshop or find
contact details for a Trainer in their area.
WHY DO WE BOTHER?
Some 25 years ago, when Prepare-Enrich was in its infancy in Australia, Alan Craddock (the National Coordinator for Prepare-Enrich, Australia) was presenting the results of some of our research and its application to Australian premarital couples to a group of university-based psychologists. One of those present, a highly experienced clinical psychologist, made the comment that we should leave premarital couples alone. “They are happy, they are starting out idealistically and we should not do anything to rock the boat” was the main thrust of his comment. He asserted that if they were “clinical couples” (one or both partners clinically diagnosed) then it was a different matter, but couples from a normal and general population should be left alone. Even when he was shown that many of the premarital couples were already expressing some concerns and dissatisfaction with their relationship, he stood firm and said that they should be left alone to work it out for themselves. He argued that they would not benefit from, and might actually be harmed by an educational intervention.
Could he be correct? Are we interfering unhelpfully with couples when we engage with them in a program of premarital preparation or at the very least are we wasting our time? Rita DeMaria (2005) has written that there are many myths about the inappropriateness of marriage and relationship education. One of them is the belief that couples choosing to attend premarital programs are generally highly satisfied and are not as distressed as clinical couples for whom marital therapy is a better option. Another common view is that distressed couples cannot benefit from relationship education programs. DeMaria challenges and rejects both of these assumptions. Her research study tackled two questions: “Who attends marriage education programs and who benefits?”
On the first question, DeMaria reports that in a sample of 129 North American couples taking Enrich as part of a marriage education program, 59% of the couples classified as the devitalized type and 34% as conflicted. It is clear that the majority of these couples were distressed. In Australia, it is also our experience that many couples participating in the PREPARE premarital program are already experiencing some distress. In a study of premarital couples, 31.1% of the sample was identified as being conflicted (Craddock, 2004). It is clear that many distressed couples do attend premarital and marital relationship education programs, but is the experience helpful to them or not?
Regarding the second question (“who benefits?”) DeMaria’s study indicates that conflicted partners still felt a significant attachment for one another, had a strong desire to learn to communicate in order to improve the relationship, were committed to one another and were willing to examine their own individual contribution to their relationship problems. These attitudes reflect a helpful motivation and are a reason for optimism concerning the outcomes of the program despite the very large number of distressed couples.
However, more specifically, we need to consider whether distressed couples can make positive changes through participation in a Prepare program. Larson & Olson (2003) evaluated the effectiveness of the PREPARE Program (Version 2000) for couples receiving premarital counseling by professionals and clergy trained in the standard 1-day training workshop. There were 153 premarital couples in three groups: the PREPARE Program group (59 couples who received an average of four feedback sessions), the PREPARE No Feedback group (46 couples who received feedback after the post-test), and the Waiting List Control Group (48 couples who received PREPARE and feedback after the post-test).
Results found that only the PREPARE Program group significantly increased their couple satisfaction, while there was no change in the PREPARE No Feedback or the Waiting List Control groups. Couples in the PREPARE Program improved in 10 out of 13 relationship categories, while those in the PREPARE No Feedback group increased in 4 of the 13 categories.
Significant changes were made in the couple types only in the PREPARE Program group, demonstrating a significant impact on 90% of these couples. In the PREPARE Program group, the number of Vitalized couples (the most satisfied type) increased by 52% from pre to post-test. Over half (55%) of the three other couple types (Harmonious, Traditional, and Conflicted) increased one or more levels.
What is important for the issue of whether distressed couples can benefit, is that for the highest risk couples, the Conflicted types, 83% moved to a more positive couple type. This finding supports DeMaria’s view that even though distressed couples commonly seek and attend marriage education programs, their motivation and attitudes are positive and they are not, by definition, poor candidates for experiencing program benefits. This fact is a great encouragement for Prepare-Enrich Administrators and suggest that we are right to bother.
Craddock, A. E. (2004). Origins: Family Experiences of Premarital Couples. Sydney, Hillfort Resources.
DeMaria, R. M. (2005). Distressed couples and marriage education. Family Relations, 54, 242-253.
Knutson, L., & Olson, D. H. (2003). Prepare Outcome Study. Marriage
& Family: A Christian Journal, 6, 529-546.
FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT ISSUES EARLY IN MARRIAGE
Many premarital couples taking Prepare indicate that they are having difficulty working together to formulate a plan for joint financial management. A recent study in the United Kingdom suggests that we “…know little about how couples develop their systems of money management, nor how and why these might change over time (Burgoyne, Reibstein, Edmunds & Dolman, 2007). In order to address these issues the researchers interviewed 42 heterosexual couples before their first marriage and again one year later. The sample at the time of their marriage (time 1) was predominantly dual-income couples without children. The study explored financial practices and how individuals approached monetary issues over the first year of their marriage.
The authors summarized their finding by writing that “...before the wedding the majority had rather independent monetary arrangements, but a year later, some had moved to more collective systems. Factors influencing change or stability in financial arrangements were both pragmatic (having to respond to major expenses such as house purchase or a new baby) and ideological (e.g., the relative importance of autonomy or sharing within the marriage). But an over-riding factor was perceived ownership of income and other assets. Those choosing more separation in money matters did so in order to maintain their financial identity and autonomy. However, there was evidence that such systems can sow the seeds of inequality later if women curtail their employment to provide childcare.”
These brief quotations from the researchers raise some important issues and are worthy of consideration by Prepare Administrators:
The findings of this study suggest that it would be important for premarital preparation sessions to assist couples to identify their attitudes and values in this area. It would be good for couples to ponder whether or not they might have a problem with “pooling”. Furthermore, even if they do not, they might need to consider whether or not they might have some issues about the pooling process becoming different in the future, when one partner is unable to contribute in the way that they have in the past. This study suggest that it is possible that some partners could unhelpfully see financial contribution largely in terms of power and status and that ceasing to make a contribution equates with loss of power and status. These are issues that require vigilance for premarital educators.
Burgoyne, C. B., Reibstein, J., Edmunds, A., & Dolman, V. (2007). Money management systems in early marriage: Factors influencing change and stability. Journal of Economic Psychology, 28, 214-228.
SHOULD TAKING PREPARE BE MANDATORY?
On a number of occasions, the matter of whether it would be good to make PREPARE mandatory has been raised during training, particularly by religious celebrants. In principle, it would be very pleasing to see all premarital couples being encouraged to take PREPARE or to be involved in some other form of premarital education program. In general, one would expect that most couples would gain very real benefits from the experience, whether they become stronger for having identified their strengths and their growth areas or having made a mature and sensible decision not to marry.
However, in practice, it may be argued that activities that are good for people may not always be well received when they are made mandatory. The reason for this is that such a process may be perceived as an authoritarian and coercive process of compulsion. It might also be perceived as being a judgmental form of assessment, a mandatory examination, that couples must pass before they can be married.
Of course, it is up to an individual Administrator as to whether they make PREPARE mandatory or not. Whatever you do, when offering PREPARE to a couple the important thing is not to alienate them or to give them the impression that PREPARE is a test or examination. These are the key points to remember:
We are strongly committed to helping you to work as competently as possible
with the PREPARE-ENRICH materials. At the beginning of each month we place
a brief (usually one page) article focusing on a matter or theme that is
likely to be helpful to PREPARE-ENRICH administrators. Sometimes
this is a brief summary of relevant research, sometimes a practical suggestion,
and sometimes a way of thinking about couples' issues. It is good
to get into the habit of reading these monthly hints. The current
hint, and an archive of all the hints posted in previous months, can be
accessed from the Administrators' main page. Any updated news items are
Editor: Dr. Alan Craddock, National Coordinator of Prepare-Enrich