Category: Couples / Close Relationships

Symposium

A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Marriage Checkup Adapted for Private Practice in Denmark

Saturday, November 18
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom K & L, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Couples / Close Relationships | Dissemination
Presentation Type: Symposium

In Denmark, as in the US, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce (47%, Danish Statistics, 2013). Up until recently (during the years 2006-2015), Danish couples with children had access to couple education services with governmental aid. An interim report showed that the average couple attending these services had levels of distress above the clinical cut-off (Danish Family Ministry, 2008). This case highlights the future need for disseminating empirically sound methods that can bridge the gap between educational and therapeutic services for couples needing more intensive treatment. Strategies for attracting at-risk couples to established (real-world) therapeutic settings have not previously been empirically tested.


The current study examined the effectiveness of the Marriage Checkup (MC), adapted for established psychologists’ private practice settings (MC-P). A total of 233 couples were recruited from two metropolitan areas of Denmark and randomized to the intervention (MC-P, n = 116) or a waitlist condition (WL, n = 117). Self-report measures of relationship health were obtained online at three (WL) or six (MC-P) time points across 54 weeks. The MC-P couples received two checkups (week 7 and 51) whereas WL couples received tickets to a movie night (week 10). Data were analyzed using multilevel growth models.


Following the first checkup, small effects were found on three out of four outcome measures. Between the checkups, the effects on two out of three measures first leveled off then reappeared. Following the second checkup, effects in the small to medium range were found on all four outcomes including marital satisfaction (Cohen’s d = 0.48, [0.29, 0.60]), couple satisfaction (d = 0.20, [0.02, 0.37]), responsiveness and attention (d = 0.43, [0.24, 0.62]), and intimate safety (d = 0.21, [0.02, 0.40]).


The current findings are comparable to those found in a previous efficacy study on the MC (Cordova et al., 2014) and thus support the transferability of the program across setting and culture. From a public health perspective, the effect sizes of .20-.48 are comparable to those found in couple educational programs (for meta-analysis see Blanchard, Hawkins, Baldwin & Fawcett, 2009) yet the one-on-one clinical format has some further potential for couples needing more intensive treatment. Going next, the future public health significance of this line of research will advance from research including additional data types (i.e. register-based data on divorce or health care utility) and longer-term outcomes.


 

Tea Trillingsgaard

Aarhus University

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