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Marriage Preparation

Historical Context

During the twentieth century marriage rules changed, but the tools by which couples maintain stability and satisfaction changed little. Today's companionate marriages depend more on couple commitment and effort than on social roles and sanctions. Early in the nineteenth century, newspaper columns and marriage manuals began to replace or augment traditional socialization-to-adulthood by family and church. College and community premarriage courses began in the 1920s and 1930s, followed by the growth of marriage and family counseling and the marriage enrichment movement (Stahmann and Hiebert 1997). Publication of the first extensive outcome studies in the 1970s and 1980s initiated a period of expanded activity and attention to program results (for reviews see Bagarozzi and Rauen 1981; Guerney and Maxson 1990; Schumm and Denton 1979; Silliman and Schumm 2000). University-based programs of twelve to twenty-four (or more) hours significantly improved communication, conflict resolution, and problem solving skills of couples. Although participants were typically nondistressed, educated, middle-class, young adult volunteers, short- and long-term behavior changes and reduced divorce rates demonstrated the potential for divorce prevention and enhancement.

The most recent advancement in marriage preparation began with community-based testing of assessments (Larson et al. 1995) and training programs (Center for Marriage and Family 1995; Stanley et al. 2001). Training of local providers, including mentor couples, dissemination of researchbased curricula, and strengthening of natural support networks shows promise of expanding benefits of laboratory-based programs to the estimated 60 percent of couples who currently participate in some premarital training (Stanley and Markman 1996). The past decade has seen the rise of a marriage movement, including communitybased and state-mandated high school classes, and marriage preparation and support in the United States, Australia, and Britain (Ooms 1998). Some policies and programs have been published to limited audiences (e.g., university, conference, government) and developments can be tracked through the Coalition for Marriage, Family, and Couples Education web site news archive. On-site evaluations of programs in South Africa (Praetorius 1990), Canada (Boisvert et al. 1992; Farnden and Lyster 1992), Australia (Parish 1992), Czechoslovakia (Novok, and Pulkrobkova 1987), and the United States (Silliman and Schumm 2000) suggest participants enjoy and gain immediate knowledge or skill, yet few studies examine long-term benefits (Center for Marriage and Family 1995).


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily & Marriage TraditionsMarriage Preparation - Historical Context, Components Of Successful Programs, Sample Programs, Other Factors Influencing Marriage Preparation Success