Brief review of Research
Since the beginning, ICP has encouraged independent research on its programs and on the frameworks that undergird them. A large body of research exists on COUPLE COMMUNICATION, much of it done in earlier years, which established its efficacy. In fact, it is the most researched marriage-education program available (Jakubowski et al., 2004). This includes 40 quantitative outcome studies (those that measure an effect of a treatment), and more than 30 qualitative or case studies.
Except for the first two studies by Miller and Nunnally as part of the program origination, all the remaining research has been done entirely independently of the program authors. Also, Miller and Nunnally's studies used engaged couples as the subjects, while the other research has generally been done with married couples. A review of 39 high quality studies, which was completed to inform policymakers in government of the effectiveness of marriage programs, included the research of both Miller and Nunnally (Reardon-Anderson, et al., 2005).
Most of the studies on the program focused only on COUPLE COMMUNICATION I, and most were conducted prior to the addition of skills mats as part of the learning methodology. This has begun to change. The program has been studied in counseling and therapy centers, educational institutions, churches, and other community settings. Over the years, many dimensions related to the program have been studied.
Brief Review of Findings
Increases in relationship satisfaction
Outcomes indicate that couples' perceptions of marital satisfaction improved significantly as a direct result of participation in CC (Burnham, 1984). Further, studies show consistent, moderately positive effects on couple perceptions of the quality of their communication and the overall quality of their relationship (Miller, 1971; Nunnally, 1971; Sarnoff, 1988; Trost, 1985). Relationship satisfaction continued several months after the program (Burnham, 1984; Sarnoff, 1988).
Very positive impact on communication following the program
The findings show consistent, positive, and very large effects on communication behavior within relationships when compared to relationships of couples that do not participate in the program (Burnham, 1984; Busick, 1982; Russell et al., 1984). This was also true for comparisons to other types of valid learning experiences (Russell et al., 1984; Witkin et al., 1983). The program still showed a positive impact on communication behavior several months after completion. (Burnham, 1984; Busick, 1982).
Indirect, positive impact on family communication
Results show that the communication of the entire family improved, including that of teenage children, after the couples took the class. This improvement for everybody in the family was maintained at a three-month follow-up (Burnham, 1984).
Ability for partners to work out problems constructively
The research shows increases in the problem-solving communication between partners (Glander, 1985; Trost, 1985). The program allowed married couples to work out problems in a constructive way so that both partners felt satisfied with the solutions reached (Smith, 1989). A study in Australia attempted to follow couples that took the program for three years after completion. The participants evaluated their experiences very positively one, two, and three years later (Huppert, 1984).
Improvement in self-esteem and self-concept
Self-esteem and self-concept, as measured by the Tennessee Self Concept Scale, improved as a result of learning the skills offered in CC (Busick, 1982; Coleman, 1979; and Dillon, 1976). A significant increase in the number and in the content of self-disclosure statements between partners resulted from involvement in CC. Improvements in statements of self-disclosure often demonstrate a healthier self esteem (Fleming, 1977; Valenti, 1989).
Wide Range of Success
- Varying socio-economic levels
- Different ages
- Distressed as well as non-distressed couples
One large sample of couples was recruited from churches, then matched demographically, and randomly assigned to groups, whose instructor teams were also randomly assigned. The program worked for couples from different educational levels and from varying socio-economic groups, including couples of low socio-economic status (Burnham, 1984). It has also been effective for couples of various ages (Schaffer, 1981).
Findings show that CC impacts highly distressed couples positively and that the program is capable of helping these couples turn their relationship around. The program produced positive effects for couples who were slightly distressed (Baughman, 1982; Biderman, 1983). The impact of the program on distressed couples has been compared with that on non-distressed couples and both showed favorable results (Aldridge and Aldridge, 1983 and Sarnoff, 1988).
These findings on effectiveness and satisfaction hold across a number of studies, according to three meta-analytic studies. Meta-analysis summarizes results across research studies. The meta-analyses indicate that COUPLE COMMUNICATION offers clinically relevant positive outcomes (Wampler, 1982a and 1982b; Wampler, 1990; Butler and Wampler, 1999). Wampler also states, "Strongest support for COUPLE COMMUNICATION is found in the most well designed studies, including evidence of maintenance of behavioral changes and relationship improvement at follow-up" (Wampler, 1990). Later studies replicate the findings of earlier ones (Butler and Wampler, 1999).
COUPLE COMMUNICATION teaching today, according to informal instructor reports, is stronger and more effective than in its first versions. Participants regularly testify to its importance in helping their marriages.
Reduction in Inmate Recidivism
Recidivism to prison was reduced for men who took Couple Communication I and II as part of a Keeping Families and Inmates Together in Harmony (Keeping FAITH) Program, developed and conducted by the RIDGE Project, McClure, OH. The Keeping FAITH Program includes inmates and their spouse/significant others.
In 2011, the Midwest Evaluation and Research Group conducted a statistical analysis of client data. "The data show that, 41 men who participated in the program have been released for more than one year. Twenty-eight of these men "Completed" the entire Keeping FAITH program, and as of May 2010, none of those men had returned to prison or committed a new crime. Further, of the additional 13 men who participated, but did not complete the program, only 2 had committed further offenses. In total, this is a 5% one-year recidivism rate for men who had participated in the program, well below the national average of 44.1% recidivism after one year."
By 2013, more that 6,500 incarcerated fathers have participated in the Keeping FAITH program, with over 4,000 participating in the Couple Communication series.
For additional information, please go to: theridgeproject.com
Once there, click on "Services".
Next click on "Evidence-based". Then scroll down that page (reading summaries as you go) toward the bottom where it says, "Here are some of the evaluative results we are seeing..." Under that, go to the following reports:
Baylor University from 4.30.2014 (Download the report, page 12 shows "Exhibit 1", the results of Couple Communication)
ROI Report from 9.06.2013 (Download that report, page 8 references the use of Couple Communication)
Evaluation Report 1.25.2011 (This gives discussion of questions following a program that contained Couple Communication)
A Welcome to More Research
Any researcher at a university, agency, or organization involved in conducting formal research is invited to study the use of COUPLE COMMUNICATION (with its current methodology of skills mats) for the purposes described in the paragraph above or for other appropriate research endeavors. If interested, please contact:
Dr. Brenda Oyer,
Director of Research at The RIDGE Project
References for Studies Cited in Review
Aldridge, R. G. & Aldridge, C. H. (1983). Couple communication: An analysis of two divergent student groups. Corrective and Social Psychiatry and Journal of Behavior Technology, Methods, and Therapy, 29, 36-38.
Baughman, D. A. (1992). The effect of self-esteem, relationship satisfaction, conceptual complexity and parent relationship communication patterns on the learning of communication skills: A field study. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign, 1981). Dissertation Abstracts International, 42, 3910. (University Microfilms N. AAC8203400).
Biderman, R. (1983). The effects of the Minnesota Couple Communication Program on communication, adaptability and cohesion: A quasi-experimental investigation. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1982). Dissertation Abstracts International, 43, 2600A. (University Microfilms No. 83-01907).
Burnham, R. A. (1984). The effects of the Couple Communication Program on the marital and family communication of high and low socioeconomic status couples. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1984). Dissertation Abstracts International, 45, 1006B-1007B. (University Microfilms No. 84-14128).
Busick, C. A. (1982). The effects of communication training on marital communication, marital satisfaction and self-concept. (Doctoral Dissertation, Texas A & M University, 1982). Dissertation Abstracts International, 43, 725A (University Microfilms No. 82-19094).
Butler, M. H., & Wampler, K. S. (1999). A meta-analytic update of research on the Couple Communication Program. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 27, 223-227.
Coleman, E. J. (1979). Effects of communication skill training on the outcome of a sex counseling program (Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1978). Dissertation Abstracts International, 39, 7234A. (University Microfilms No. 79-11, 990).
Dillon, J. D. (1976. Marital communication and its relation to self-esteem (Doctoral dissertation, United States International University, 1975). Dissertation Abstracts International, 36, 5862B. (University Microfilms No. 76-10, 585).
Fleming, M. J. (1977). An evaluation of a structured program designed to teach communication skills and concepts to couples: A field study (Doctoral dissertation, Florida State University, 1976) Dissertation Abstracts International, 37, 7633A-7634A. (University Microfilms No. 77-13, 315).
Glander, M. H. (1985). A case study approach to the Couple Communication Program. (Doctoral Dissertation, North Carolina State at Raleigh, 1984). Dissertation Abstracts International, 46, 613A. (University Microfilms No. 85-06994).
Huppert, N. M. (1984). Communicating for better or for worse. Australian Journal of Sex, Marriage and Family, 5, 25-35.
Jakubowski, S. F., Milne, E. P., Brunner, H., & Miller, R. B. (2004). A review of empirically supported marital enrichment programs. Family Relations, 53, 528-536.
Midwest Evaluation and Research Group (2011). A statistical Analysis of Client Data from the Keeping Families and Inmates Together in Harmony (Keeping FAITH) Program, for the RIDGE Project, Emporia, KS.
Miller, S. L. (1971). The effects of communication training in small groups upon self-disclosure and openness in engaged couples' systems of interaction: A field experiment. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1971). Dissertation Abstracts International, 32, 2819A-2820A. (University Microfilms No. 71-28, 263).
Miller, S. L., Nunnally, E. W., & Wackman, D. B. (1976). A communication training program for couples. Social Casework, 57, 9-18.
Nunnally, E.W. (1971). Effects of communication training upon interaction awareness and empathic accuracy of engaged couples; A field experiment. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1971). Dissertation Abstracts International, 32, 4736A. (University Microfilms No. 72-05, 561).
Russell, C. S., Bagarozzi, D. A., Atilano, R. B., & Morris, J. E. (1984). A comparison of two approaches to marital enrichment and conjugal skills training: Minnesota Couple Communication Program and structured behavioral exchange contracting. American Journal of Family Therapy, 12, 13-15.
Reardon-Anderson, J., Stagner, M., Macomber, J. E., & Murray, J. (2005). Systematic review of the impact of marriage and relationship programs. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families). Retrieved February 11, 2005, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/strengthen/serv_delivery/reports/systematic_rev/sys_title.html
Sarnoff, S. M. (1988). The effectiveness of a communication skills training program with martially distressed couples. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, California Coast University, 1988).
Schaffer, M. (1981). An evaluation of the Minnesota Couple Communication Program upon communication of married couples. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Southern Mississippi, 1981). Dissertation Abstracts International, 41, 4642B. (University Microfilms No. 8109897).
Smith, P. (1989). Couple Communication skills training: Its impact on the individual, couple relational life, and perceived satisfaction. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, California Graduate School of Family Psychology, 1989.)
Trost, J. A. (1985). The influence of Couple Communication Program on the marital satisfaction of distressed couples. (Doctoral dissertation, The Professional School for Psychological Studies, San Diego, CA 1985).
Valenti, F. T. (1989) Effects of the Couple Communication Program I on the marital adjustment, self-disclosure, and communication style of therapy and non-therapy participants (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1987). Dissertation Abstracts International, 49, 1715A. (University Microfilms No. 88-16, 361).
Wampler, K. S., (1982a) The effectiveness of the Minnesota Couple Communication Program: A review of research. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 8, 345-356.
Wampler, K. S., (1982b) Bringing the review of literature into the age of quantification: Meta-Analysis as a strategy for integrating research findings in family studies. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 44, 1009-1023.
Wampler, K. S., (1990). An update of research on the Couple Communication Program. Family Science Review, 3, 21-40.
Witkin, S. L., Edleson, J. L., Rose, D., & Hall, J. A. (1983). Group training in marital communication: a comparative study. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 45, 661-669.