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Effects of Relationship Education on Couple Communication and Satisfaction: A Randomized Controlled Trial With Low-Income Couples.

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Personal Author: 
Williamson, Hannah C.
Altman, Noemi.
Hsueh, JoAnn.
Bradbury, Thomas N.
Journal Article
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Objective: Although preventive educational interventions for couples have been examined in more than 100 experimental studies, the value of this work is limited by reliance on economically advantaged populations and by an absence of data on proposed mediators and moderators. Data from the Supporting Healthy Marriage Project—a randomized, controlled trial of relationship education for couples living with low incomes—were therefore analyzed to test whether intervention effects on relationship satisfaction would be mediated by observational assessments of relationship communication and whether any such effects would be moderated by couples’ pretreatment risk. Method: Within the larger sample of Supporting Healthy Marriage Project couples randomized to a relationship education or no-treatment control condition, the present analyses focus on the 1,034 couples who provided (a) data on sociodemographic risk at baseline, (b) observational data on couple communication 12 months after randomization, and (c) reports of relationship satisfaction 30 months after randomization. Results: Intervention couples reported higher satisfaction at 30 months than control couples, regardless of their level of pretreatment risk. Among higher risk couples, the intervention improved observed communication as well. Contrary to prediction, treatment effects on satisfaction were not mediated by improvements in communication, and improvements in communication did not translate into greater satisfaction. Conclusions: Relationship education programs produce small improvements in relationship satisfaction and communication, particularly for couples at elevated sociodemographic risk. The absence of behavioral effects on satisfaction indicates, however, that the mechanisms by which couples may benefit from relationship education are not yet well understood. (Author abstract)

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