Written by Seth Eisenberg
A recent study of military couples found that skills-training is likely to significantly decrease the rate of divorce, with significant implications for the field of marriage and relationship education and couples contemplating separation.
For nearly 30 years, PREP has been one of the leading pioneers in the study of marriage and relationship education. Founders Howard Markman and Scott Stanley, along with many of their colleagues from the University of Denver, have conducted dozens of studies to understand and validate the impact of the courses they’ve developed for couples and singles in all stages of relationship. Markman and Stanley’s studies are among the most widely cited in the field.
The organization’s close collaboration with the U.S. Army over the past decade encouraged the development and rapid expansion of PREP classes for military personnel, known as PREP for Strong Bonds, which are primarily delivered by Army chaplains to active-duty soldiers and spouses throughout the nation. Courses focus primarily on helping participants improve communication and conflict resolution skills as the foundation for increased marital satisfaction and resiliency.
PREP recently released results from a randomized controlled trial of Stanley and Markman’s PREP for Strong Bonds curriculum to evaluate the program’s impact in decreasing divorce among Army Couples. For the study, married Army couples were assigned to either PREP for Strong Bonds (n = 248) delivered by Army chaplains or to a no-treatment control group (n = 228).
One year after the program, researchers followed-up on the program’s impact on decreasing the rate of divorce. The success rate of the program was telling. From a research perspective, Dr. Stanley and his colleagues found statistical significance indicating a divorce rate for those receiving services of just 2.03% versus 6.20% for those who did not receive PREP classes.
While there are limitations to this and practically any study, no matter how rigorous, the indications are meaningful.
The research pool drawn upon for the study came from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home to the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, which has faced significant stressors related to multiple deployments and high casualty rates in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Although further studies will undoubtedly continue examining the long-term affects of deployments on marital satisfaction and resilience, initial results show that PREP for Strong Bonds enabled nearly 98% of military couples to sustain their marriages as a result of 14-hours of training.
Beyond the validation of PREP for Strong Bonds, the study is further indication that evidence-based marriage and relationship education is effective in decreasing divorce. For couples contemplating separation or divorce, the findings should offer plenty of incentive to participate in a scientifically-sound training to discover first-hand if skills training can offer a path to restoring love, happiness, and fulfillment with each other.
Seth Eisenberg is President/CEO of PAIRS Foundation, an industry leader in marriage and relationship education, and a founding member of the Coalition for Divorce Reform. Learn more at www.pairs.com.