Thursday, June 22, 2006

Premarital education

Interesting report here.
31% lower chance of divorce for those who went to some sort of premarital education. So, of course, I pulled the original article:

Stanley, S. M., Amato, P. R., Johnson, C. A., & Markman, H. J. (2006). Premarital education, marital quality, and marital stability: Findings from a large, random household survey. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 117-126.

Having a religious wedding was related to having premarital education, as noted in the brief report. Divorce was related to cohabitation prior to the wedding, and negatively related to having a religious ceremony and also negatively related to having had marriage education. Having children was very strongly related to a lower divorce risk.

The "third variable" problem was handled pretty well by these authors. It could be that something else causes both divorce and the likelihood of attending marriage education. My first thought is that those who are more committed to making their marriage work are more likely to attend a marriage workshop. Also, they didn't measure such things as whether the individual had parents who divorced. They used a statistical method called biprobit analysis to reduce the likelihood that other variables influenced the correlation, but as we all know, correlation does not imply causation (however the lack of correlation certainly implies the no causal relationship exists). Most compelling for me was the finding that the longer the education (in hours) the more it prevented divorce. It looks like a "dose response" effect. However, it could be that those who are really committed to making it work sign up for longer workshops.

My own marital education included talking to a priest, doing "Pre-Cana" counseling with a parish couple and attending a retreat sponsored by the Diocese. Lots of "exercises" and very little education about marriage.

By the way, how would a Roman Catholic answer the question, "Have you ever been divorced" if they had received an annulment? I understand that a civil divorce must still happen, but if called out of the blue by someone asking whether you got married in a church, would that set some people up to say "no" to the divorce question?


Blogger Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Did the article specify what kind of programs or counseling? I remember discussing that there was a correlation when I was working on my bachelors degree twelve years ago, but when I actually sought it out, it was difficult to find a therapist who actually did it. (not to mention that was affordable to two kids fresh out of college). We went through counseling with my husband's pastor, but it was mostly chatting.

I've seen some very impressive evangelical curricula for premarital counseling, but it leads me to wonder what a Lutheran curriculum would look like, with an emphasis on bringing God's grace into the marriage?

It disturbs me that I've been working on a Masters degree in marriage and family therapy for several years now (my actual marriage and family tend to interfere with efficient study), and the issue of premarital counseling has never come up. This might be future thesis project....thanks for the thoughts. As a fellow Lutheran immersed in psychology, I appreciate your blog immensely

8:28 PM  

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