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A comparison of a behavioral and a lecture-discussion approach to pre-marital counselling McRae, Bradley C.

Abstract

The question of the viability and permanence of the institution of marriage was discussed. Statistical findings indicate not only that the divorce rate is increasing, but also, that the number of people who remain single is decreasing as well as the length of time a divorced person remains single before remarrying. One possible explanation put forth for this seemingly contradictory set of findings is that people are not dissatisfied with the institution of marriage, but that they become dissatisfied with their own marriages. One approach to the problem of troubled marriages has been an increased interest in marriage counselling. An alternate approach to the problem lies in the area of prevention — namely premarital counselling. It was the latter approach with which this study was concerned. A review of the literature indicated that the social scientist has paid scant attention to the area of premarital counselling. What work that has been done was found to be weak methodologically and three recommendations were made for future studies: 1) that the treatment rationale be explicitly stated, 2) that multiple criteria be used, and 3) that both subjective and objective measures be used within the same study. These recommendations were incorporated into the present study. A review of the literature on the efficacy of marital treatment (Gupman, 1973b) showed the behavioral approach to be a particularly effective form of treatment. A method of behavioral group premarital counselling based on the work of Stuart (1969a, 1969b, 1973) was developed (Stuart & McRae, 1975a). This method was used as the experimental treatment in the present study. A survey by the Pastoral Institute of British Columbia (1974) indicated that the lecture-discussion approach to premarital counselling was the most commonly used approach in the province of British Columbia. The lecture-discussion method was selected as the comparison (control) treatment in the present study. With the cooperation of the Pastoral Institute of British Columbia and the Burnaby Family Life Institute, ministers of the United, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, and Unitarian Churches were contacted. With the help of the ministers, engaged couples were contacted and asked if they would be willing to participate in the study. After eighteen couples agreed to participate in the study both in Vancouver and in Burnaby, they were randomly assigned to the experimental and comparison groups in their respective areas. An expansion of the Campbell and Stanley Pretest-Posttest Control Group Design was used as the experimental design in the present study (Campbell & Stanley, 1963, p. 13). Biographic and demographic information was collected prior to the start of the sessions using the Premarital Inventory Part A. The Premarital Inventory Part B and the Marriage Prediction Schedule were administered at the beginning of the first session and during the last session of the six week experimental and control courses. The Course Evaluation Form was administered during the last sessions. The major finding of the present study was that the behavioral treatment was not found to be more effective in producing change in the couples volunteering for premarital counselling than the lecture-discussion treatment. The results from the study showed only partial support for one of the fifteen hypotheses tested. Subjects in the experimental treatment group gave the experimental treatment a significantly more positive rating on the Course Evaluation Form than the subjects in the control treatment gave their group. However, this difference was found to be attributable to the experimental group females. The findings and limitations of the study were discussed along with implications for further research.

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