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Exploring how couples utilize premarital counseling: A grounded theory approach

Tara L Hart, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Therapy-oriented and educational programs are often utilized as a means of preventing divorce for couples entering into marriage (Cusinato, 2004). Extensive research has been conducted on these types of strategies that prevent marital distress and dissolution (Berger & Hannah, 1999; Bruhn & Hill, 2004; Sullivan & Anderson, 2002). Although the steady increase of divorce rates in the 1980s (Hahlweg & Markman, 1988) has seemed to have leveled off in the 1990s and early 21st century, divorce remains a social problem. Despite the expansive literature on relationship enrichment, satisfaction, and divorce, several limitations exist among many studies. Those couples identified as most at-risk for future divorce or marital distress appear to be the least likely to engage or benefit from premarital counseling (Halford, O’Donnell, Lizzio, & Wilson, 2006). In addition, the efficacy of premarital counseling has been predominately measured quantitatively which may not provide a holistic picture of couples’ experiences in premarital counseling. Therefore, a grounded theory study may clarify what mechanisms contribute to the usefulness of premarital counseling. The results of the current study suggest that many couples enter premarital counseling because it is a requirement of their officiating church. Because of this requirement, couples view premarital counseling as “one more thing” to be done prior to the wedding ceremony. Other important factors that seem to impact couples’ experiences in premarital counseling include the role of the facilitator, counseling format, unique individual factors such as age, maturity level, and education, as well as couple factors such as length of dating relationship, cohabitation status, and having a child prior to marriage. The current grounded theory suggests that couples face many stressors during the time they are preparing for the wedding that interfere with their ability to fully invest in the premarital counseling experience. Based on these findings, the author makes several recommendations for practice and future research. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Hart, Tara L, "Exploring how couples utilize premarital counseling: A grounded theory approach" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3358957.