In the past few decades, several meta-analytic studies have attempted to answer the question: Is marriage education effective (Carroll & Doherty, 2003; Halford, Markman, Kline & Stanley, 2003; Reardon-Anderson, Stagner, Macomber, & Murray, 2004)? However, previous meta-analytic studies have been somewhat limited in their conclusions because they have reviewed a narrow portion of the marriage education spectrum (e.g. premarital education only, Carroll & Doherty, 2003), because they focused only on one particular program (e.g, Couples Communication, Butler & Wampler, 1999), because they failed to differentiate marital therapy from marital education programs (Reardon-Anderson et al., 2005), or because they excluded much of the mainstream of marriage education due to methodological restrictions (e.g, random assignment studies only, Reardon-Anderson et al., 2005). The current meta-analysis is uniquely qualified to better answer whether marriage education is effective. It examines the full range of marital education from marriage preparation to early marriage and across the marital life span. It excludes studies that evaluate therapy programs and interventions, thus providing a more focused test of marriage education rather than a broader test of marriage intervention. It also allows for analysis of programs more representative of the mainstream of marriage education as it is currently practiced. Finally, this work employed more rigorous statistical techniques than had been done with previous meta-analyses. Sixty-nine marriage education evaluation reports were included in this meta analysis; fifteen additional articles were not code-able, but were analyzed conceptually. Articles were coded by design and results are reported according to study design. Quantitative results showed that across methodology, sample and program type, marriage education has moderate positive effects on marital satisfaction/quality and communication. These effects remain at follow-up evaluations. Effects were strongest for couples married longer than five years and for communication-training programs. Subgroups of studies generally were too small to examine many moderator variables. In addition, study samples were predominately White, well-educated, middle-class couples. Although this meta analysis provides the strongest answer to date on the effectiveness of marriage education, increased exploration and evaluation of moderator variables are needed before we will know which types of interventions are most effective for which couples.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage, Family, and Human Development



Date Submitted


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marriage, marriage education, meta-analysis, program evaluation