Do premarital education programs work?

Do premarital education programs work?

My first experience with pre-marital education programs was years ago, when a close friend of mine got engaged to someone of the same religion (in her case, she was an Italian who practiced Roman Catholicism), and enrolled in a weekend class with her future husband. I had never heard of such a thing, but the idea of ​​a course to prepare someone for marriage struck me as thoughtful and I was intrigued: She explained that in order to marry her husband in her family church, she would take a premarital course that contained a religious component to consider them as ready for marriage and to let the priest marry them himself.

When I got engaged earlier this year, I suddenly remembered her mention of the wedding course, and did some digging: was this something my fiancé and I had to invest our time in, especially since full-time jobs and wedding event planning took most of the time. the? As a certified researcher This led to my next question: Is there any research to suggest that premarital programs actually help relationships?

The answer I found: It depends.


A meta-analysis that looked at a number of different studies and was published in 2010 found that they provided virtually no benefits to couples taking pre-marital education courses. The caveat here is that only short-term effects were considered and nine unpublished studies were also included, which did not have to pass peer review to be published. Alternatively, two studies looking at the long-term effects of premarital education programs found that couples who completed them tended to have more satisfying marriages in the long run.

The meta-analysis examined 47 studies on premarital education that were made between 1975 and 2008. The criteria for entering a study were based on 28 codifying characteristics, as well as the fact that all programs were set up in a university/clinical location or a religious setting, with the age of the participants ranging from 21 to 30 years and the majority of the participants had been less than two years into the relationship. Another key feature: Nearly all studies evaluated unconcerned premarital samples and looked at educated middle-class couples, with only a few exceptions. After applying several statistical methods of analysis, the researchers concluded: The overall effect of premarital education programs on relationship quality/satisfaction was small and insignificant, and when looking at communication, premarital education programs appear to be “moderately effective” depending on which measures were used.

However, according to two long-term studies, there are positive effects of premarital education, suggesting that married couples who have completed a premarital education program have a higher marital quality and a lower risk of divorce compared to couples who have not completed a program, even when entering a premarital education program. control for many potential differences between those who had invested and those who had not (Nock et al., 2008; Stanley etcal., 2006).

For my now husband and I, we decided to take the chance: we reasoned it would be better to take a pre-marital course that would cost us nothing but our time, which had the potential of either no benefit or the benefit to learn more about each other and possibly improve our communication skills. If that would be more satisfying in the long run, we’d be happy to do that. We ended up signing up for a five-session pre-marital course that included mentoring a couple who had recently celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary. We found the course not only informative but also enjoyable.


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