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   Home  > Articles

Marriage Education: what do we know? What should we do about it?

By Harry Benson


As a response to the growing problem of family breakdown in the UK, fledgling community initiatives are emerging. These offer marriage & relationship education programmes to adult couples. The aim of this paper is to show how both research and experience might be applied to ensure these initiatives are genuinely effective.

Worldwide, only three educational courses to date have demonstrated any real promise in reducing divorce rates substantially: the “PREP” skills-based course, and the “FOCCUS” & “PREPARE” inventories.

Outcome research suggests that almost all other courses – on their own – tend to focus on improving “marital satisfaction” (happiness) with little evidence of improvement in “marital stability” (divorce rates). This paper attempts to explain the distinction.

Encouraging evidence from the USA however suggests that divorce rates can also be reduced effectively within the broader community – when set within an appropriate public policy or context.

Three key principles appear essential in doing this:

  • Public policy promoting the value of marriage & commitment
  • Access to regular marriage & relationship education as a healthy norm
  • Access to the support of ordinary married “mentor couples” as a healthy norm


In this article
- Summary
- Introduction
- Addressing stability and satisfaction
- Methods of delivery
- The effects of “Marriage Education”
- Other successful approaches
- Ingredients of a successful policy
- Bristol Community Family Trust - an example of this approach
- References

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Copyright © 2001, Harry Benson.

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