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The Impact of a Psychoeducational Group Intervention, on Marital Discord, Adult Interaction Style, Projective Identification and Perceptive Identification.

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Turner, Lynn.
Conference Proceedings
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Marital discord is one of society's most common and urgent problems. The destructive outcomes of marital discord have been documented with the 50 percent (Cherlin, 1992) to 67 percent (Martin & Bumpass, 1989) divorce rate for first married couples. Evidence also exists that many couples, who do stay married, continue their marriages in distressed and abusive relationships (Smith, Vivian & O'Leary, 1990), so that marital discord is experienced by approximately 20 percent of all married couples at any given time (Beach, Arias, & O'Leary, 1987). Storaasli &Markman (1990) studying relationship problems in the early stages of marriage found that the progression through stages was marked by increasing problems with communication, intimacy and conflict management. Longitudinal research points to contempt/disgust and defensiveness in relational interactions as the two most corrosive negative marital behaviors leading to discord and dissolution (Gottman, 1994). These reactions or behavioral responses under stress are examples of destructive adult interaction styles in marital interactions. From 1988 to 1993, thirteen marital discord studies evaluating 1392 participant couples and 428 control couples, and an article (Tolman & Molidor, 1994) reviewing 54 social work studies of group work over 10 years revealed that: (1) conjoint therapy using cognitive behavioral treatments for 10-18 hours has been the predominant mode of marital therapy; (2) group and/or psychoeducational treatments have been primarily used with premarital couples; and (3) every type of marital intervention was an improvement over no treatment with little difference shown between outcomes of the various treatments. For marital issues, thirty-eight studies from the meta-analysis were based on combinations of behavioral, cognitive and behavioral-exchange theories while only three studies included emotionally focused or affective treatments. Cognitive-behavioral time-limited, structured groups were preferred for all target populations, while psychoeducation was used for issues of divorce, pre-marriage, child abuse, substance abuse and parenting. This study attempted to identify destructive processes contributing to marital discord and to assess the ameliorative impact of a psychoeducational couples group model. The study postulated that internal and external patterns of destructive relational reactions developed in childhood are processes of adult interaction styles associated with marital discord. Each adult interaction style is comprised of three learned or internalized coping responses: the protective behaviors, the underlying cognitive framework, and the aversive emotions related to childhood experiences. Together they form a largely unconscious, integrated interaction style that emerges under stress in relationships. (Author abstract)

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