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Attending pre-marital counseling classes really does pay off

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. was Director of Mental Help Net from 1999 to 2011. Dr. Dombeck received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1995 ...Read More

A nice article in the Journal of Family Psychology (March 2006, Vol. 20, No. 1, 117-126) by research psychologist Scott Stanley, titled "Premarital Education, Marital Quality, and Marital Stability: Findings From a Large, Random Household Survey" presents evidence from a four state survey of over 3000 homes (representing a wide range of economic, ethic and cultural groupings in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Kansas) that pre-marital counseling helps to make marriages healthy and strong. If this finding was ever in doubt, it should no longer be.

Pre-marital counseling is typically offered as a sort of educational class that engaged couples can attend (or must attend) prior to getting married. It is most always delivered in a religious setting (e.g., the counseling is a pre-condition that priests or other clergy set upon being married within the church). There are secular versions of this counseling however. Classes cover topics like how to handle conflicts, how to come to agreement on marital decisions, and how to communicate well. They range from 1 to 40 hours duration.

Couples in the survey that participated in pre-marital counseling were, on average, 31% less likely to divorce in any given year of their marriage than couples who did not benefit from this counseling. They were also more likely than un-counseled couples to report higher marital satisfaction, lower marital conflict and greater levels of commitment. When results were broken out among groups differing in educational status, it was found that moderately to very educated couples benefited from the pre-marital counseling more than less educated couples in one major aspect only – they were less likely to divorce. The gains in commitment and satisfaction were stable across all educational groups.

Keep Reading By Author Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.
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