Alan A. Wilson
Wayland Baptist University
Abstract This study would seek to understand the benefits from premarital counseling as to marital health and satisfaction. Quality of church-based (church/clergy) would be assessed and benefits to marital health would be reported. Comparison of couples that had received premarital counseling would be examined alongside of those who did not receive premarital counseling. The comparison would be measured in terms of perceived marital satisfaction and marital health. The role of meeting the needs of couples based on the unique make-up of each individual couple would be one aspect of focus in this study. The likelihood of couples seeking premarital counseling would be an aspect of this study. Involvement of couples in a religious setting would be a factor to be examined within this study and the relationship between the couple and the church/clergy.
Does Premarital Counseling Affect Marital Satisfaction? Marital satisfaction is a subject that has piqued the interest of researchers and clinicians for some years. Burgess and Wallin (1953) and Terman (1938) are viewed as pioneers in the field of predicting marital satisfaction and success with concern to some form of premarital assessment (Fowers & Olson, 1986). Since this time many research-based premarital programs have been developed as well as many community-based programs (Sullivan, Pasch, Cornelius & Cirigliano, 2004). These programs serve the purpose of helping couples prepare for marriage. Sullivan et. al state that: “Outcome studies of research-based programs provide evidence that such programs can increase relationship skills and prevent marital distress and divorce (e.g., Hahlweg, Markman, Thurmaier, Engl, & Eckert, 1998).”
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services website (2009); the divorce rate has seen a somewhat steady decline from the years 1981 through 2007 in the state of Texas. However, the marriage rate in Texas has been in constant decline as well since 1981. It was estimated in 1992 that couples in the United States getting married had a 40% to 66% chance of divorce and as a result of marital distress physical, emotional, and financial problems resulted for spouses and their children (Martin & Bumpass, 1989; Norton & Miller, 1992).
The purpose of this study is to examine the benefits of premarital counseling and the effect that it has on the overall satisfaction of the spouses within the marriage relationship. With the divorce rate ever climbing within the United States it is important to examine how divorce affects those involved. Although this subject has received much attention through numerous studies; this project hopes to examine the benefits of community-based premarital counseling within the scope of pastoral care.
Sullivan et. al conducted a study that dealt with predicting participation in premarital prevention programs. Their study examined those who would seek out premarital counseling and why. The report states: “Recent studies indicate that the majority of engaged couples do not participate in premarital counseling despite the growing popular interest in prevention approaches to relationship problems (Silliman & Schumm, 2000).” The reasoning for this is that the couples had not yet experienced significant distress in their relationship and as of yet were not motivated to change. Couples that are engaged typically enjoy high levels of relationship satisfaction and therefore do not see a need for counseling (Floyd, Markman, Kelly, Blumberg, & Stanley, 1995). Two key factors were found for striving to prevent marital problems within the Sullivan study. First is to develop effective interventions and second is the effective dissemination of interventions for couples (Sullivan et. al). Their findings showed that one of the strongest predictors of couples participation involved the