On the face of it, marital distress is the sort of experience that every couple is apt to undergo at a certain point of the married life. In the meantime, it turns out that this experience can be excessively challenging for some espousals. Hence, recent research has shown that marital distress is one of the most typical reasons for divorces in America (Birditt, Brown, Orbuch, & McIlvane, 2013). Thus, the fact that marital distress is a critical problem that needs to be timely addressed seems to be undoubted.
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Modern psychology puts a particular emphasis on the positive effect of communication in terms of marital conflicts. Thus, Segrin and Flora (2011) believe that “communication is at the heart of most cases of marital distress” – the statement that seems to assign both positive and negative implications to the communication process (237). Otherwise stated, communication might be the core root of the problem as well as its key solution. As a result, it is assumed that effective communication strategies can be assistive in coping with marital distress, whereas, negative patterns, on the contrary, are likely to increase the tension and stress within a family environment.
It is essential to note that the problem of marital distress and its roots are widely elucidated in the scientific literature. Numerous studies have been carried out in order to identify both the main causes of marital distress and the alternative solutions that can resolve the problem efficiently. The major part of experts agrees on the point that marital distress is the result of the wrong communication patterns that partners employ. As well as any behavioral patterns, negative communication patterns incorporate in the partners’ everyday life inciting the same conflicts to repeat over and over again. As a result, the solution seems to reside in improving these patterns and implementing positive communication strategies.
First and foremost, it is critical to find scientific evidence of the interconnection between marital distress and communication. Experts tend to believe that such interconnection does not only exists but proves to be highly strong. Hence, for instance, a group of researchers from Denver has carried out a study examining how different types of communication patterns are associated with marital distress.
This study employs various behavioral measurements of both different communication styles in order to assess the change in marital relationships. According to the researchers, the early developed patterns of negative communication essentially signify later problems as these patterns tend to endure (Markman, Rhoades, Stanley, Ragan, & Whitton, 2012). Therefore, this study provides scientific justification for the existence of the cause-effect relations between communication and marital distress.
It should be noted that Markman et al. are not the only researchers that believe that there is a strong interconnection between communication and marital distress. Thus, some experts assume that poor communication skills are the key reason for divorces. Hence, for example, a group of Californian researchers has carried out a study showing that divorcing couples are more likely to display negative communication in comparison with those couples who do not divorce (Lavner & Bradbury, 2012).
In other words, the examined problem proves to be particularly acute as the lack of proper treatment might lead to the inevitable consequences – whereas marital distress can be possibly overcome, a divorce signifies the complete failure of the entire marital project. Therefore, this research shows that it is critical that the problem of marital distress is timely addressed.
Therefore, it might be assumed that poor communication is the cause of marital distress, while positive communication strategy is, consequently, the alternative solution of this problem. From this perspective, it is critical to analyze those studies that examine the positive impact that effective communication practices might have on the resolution of marital problems.
Recent research has tried to address the problem by putting an emphasis on examining marital distress in full-employed couples. The findings show that it is destructive communication that provokes the major part of conflicts between partners. The key focus is put on the fact that poor communication is the result of the shortage of the relevant knowledge. Hence, the authors assume that teaching communication skills is essential for reducing the number of conflicts in families (Carroll, Hill, Yorgason, Larson, & Sandberg, 2013). Therefore, it is the first scientific evidence of the effectiveness of proper communication in coping with the problem of marital distress.
The question, consequently, arises regarding the particular methods that can be employed to avoid marital distress. From this perspective, recent research, aimed at examining the effectiveness of the so-called “relationship workshops,” seems to be particularly valuable. Thus, a group of American researchers decided to estimate the impact that relationship workshops have on the general marital satisfaction.
It is essential to point out that the workshop’s program puts a particular emphasis on the communication patterns that partners use in their everyday life. In the course of the study, the researchers came to the conclusion that those couples that completed the course’s program and improved their communication skills reported higher satisfaction with their marriage than they had before the workshop (Schmidt, Luquet, & Gehlertc, 2015). Therefore, it might be suggested that well-planned interventions are required in order to avoid marital distress.
Scientific research proves that even a minor intervention in the communication strategy might a have a positive impact on marital relationships. Hence, a recent experiment offered the participants to reconsider the communication patterns they employed in the course of the latest conflicts. According to the results, the major part of the participants reported on the improvements in the marital environment after the correction of their communicational strategies in conflict situations (Finkel, Slotter, Luchies, Walton, & Gross, 2013). This experiment shows that communication practices should be an integral component of the programs aimed at improving marital relationships.
It should, likewise, be noted that numerous studies focus specifically on assessing the effectiveness of more complex preventative programs. Thence, for instance, recent research has examined the results of primary prevention of marital distress. The program implies developing communicational skills that are supposed to help partners resolve conflicts and cope with misunderstanding. The obtained findings show that the couples that have completed the program find fewer difficulties in coping with conflict situations than those that have not received the special training (Rogge, Cobb, Lawrence, Johnson, & Bradbury, 2013).
The key value of this research resides in the fact that it was carried out among the newly formed couples. In other words, the main aim of the study was to show that it is better to address the problem of marital communication at the earliest stages.
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As a result, it might be concluded that the current scientific literature offers an explicit description of the interconnection between communication and marital distress while the preventative programs need to be further investigated.
The research at hand was designed to carry out an analysis of the impact of communication patterns on the relationships among couples. A correlational study will be conducted to determine the relationship between these two factors. Communication and marital distress will be selected as two quantitative variables. Microsoft Excel was chosen as a primary analysis tool because the software program has all the necessary functions and helps to show the data in a comprehensive manner.
Moreover, it will be possible to modify the study if it is required. Limitations of the research should be acknowledged. The most significant aspect that should not be overlooked is that only two variables are examined, and the ways in which they are affected by internal and external factors are not evaluated.
Married couples will be selected to participate in the study. The opinions of at least ten individuals will be required, and it can be viewed as a sufficient sample size in this case. An eligibility criterion was developed for participation:
- The couple has had an experience of participating in any marital distress prevention program that implied communication methods
- The couple has been married for less than five years.
This approach was chosen to ensure that their experiences are rather similar. The recruitment procedure will be carried out with a use of a personal appeal. Social networks and marital forums will be examined to find the couples. The participation in such discussions indicates that they should be interested in the subject matter.
Individuals from 20 to 30 years-old will be selected to avoid possible bias and increase the reliability of collected data. All participants will be Americans with either a college or a higher degree to ensure that they are well-educated and competent. Moreover, this approach will help to eliminate issues related to financial needs and others that may complicate the relationships and affect the results. The religious belief will not be viewed as a critical factor, but such data will be collected to determine if particular connections are present. Only individuals that are married for the first time will be selected to avoid possible errors and inconsistencies.
First and foremost, it is imperative to receive consent from the participants with a use of email. The consent implies their agreement to complete the questionnaires. Before providing the content, each couple will be informed about the overall purpose of the study and assured that the collected information would be employed for scientific purposes only. However, it is reasonable not to discuss some of the aspects of the research to ensure that their answers are not altered. Also, it is paramount to explain that anonymity will be respected, and their personal information is not going to be disclosed.
Two surveys will be provided to the individuals once consent has been received, and answers will be sent via e-mail.
The research participants will have to complete two questionnaires that consist of several questions. The first one is going to assess the efficiency of communication in the relationships, and the second one is focused on marital distress.
A broad range of surveys and techniques are currently available. However, ENRICH Marital Satisfaction Scale and Kansas Martial Satisfaction Scale (KMS) were selected because these approaches have proven to be efficient over the years, and are commonly used in similar studies. Different scales are used, but it would be reasonable to combine these approaches and conduct an analysis of data received. Also, another benefit of this method is that the participants will not be able to identify the primary goal of the research, and their answers will not be affected.
A correlation analysis will be conducted to evaluate the data collected. This type of analysis is a valid research tool that is aimed at identifying the relationship between selected variables. The technique is particularly helpful when researchers are trying to evaluate the impact that one factor has on the other. The principal aim of the analysis is to determine the way communication patterns affect the experience of couples, and if it is reasonable to study this factor improve relationships based on evidence.
The data received will be manually reviewed and put into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for further correlational analysis. A correlation coefficient will be determined with a use of an appropriate function in the software program, and a plot graph will be built to get a better understanding of the relationships between the variables. It is reasonable to receive approval from professionals in this area to make sure that the design of the study is appropriate.
First of foremost, all the participants reported on completing the so-called PREP. In four cases out of six, the key motive resided in improving communication skills with the view of preventing marital distress. One couple defined its motivation as the search for new experience, and the other one followed the advice of the acquaintances. All the couples showed the understanding of the role that communication plays in their marital relationships.
As long as all the couples completed similar programs, they reported on same formats with some insignificant differences. Hence, three couples said that the programs included some theoretical material and common discussions aimed at sharing the marital experience. In the course of the programs, they practice various communication techniques and were supposed to complete some tasks at home. Other two couples also mentioned some video lectures and one couple pointed out the benefits of the work in “mixed pairs.”
In order to analyze the elements of the preventative programs that the participants found to be the most useful, they were asked to indicate the specific skills and technics they learned from the completed programs. The participants were also encouraged to describe the way they incorporated these elements into their relationships. Five of the six couples agreed on the point that the so-called “listener technique” was the most valuable tool they gleaned.
Moreover, they reported that they continue using this tool after the course’s completion. Two couples out of six mentioned the “paraphrasing technique” that they found the most useful. They said the program taught them to be more careful with the word choice and more accurate in formulating their thoughts. All the couples noted that they continue using the obtained skills in their everyday lives.
Half of the couples reported that they are satisfied with the learned techniques, and they consider this knowledge to be sufficient for assuring favorable marital environment. In the meantime, three couples said they would like to develop the “listener technique” as they do not feel good enough at using it after the course’s completion.
Three couples out of six said they would like to try another program of a similar type in a few years. One couple considers such an opportunity only in case some problems arise. One couple said they would like to re-complete the same program in order to master the skills and learn the information they might have missed out. One couple refused to complete a similar program explaining it by the fact that they feel capable of developing their communication skills in the home environment.
All the couples reported that it was their first marriage. Five couples out of six have been married for about two years (one and a half – two and a half years). One couple has been married for four years.
Birditt, K.S., Brown, E., Orbuch, T.L., & McIlvane, J.M. (2013). Marital Conflict Behaviors and Implications for Divorce over 16 Years. Journal of Family and Marriage, 72(5), 1188-1204.
Carroll, S.J., Hill, E.J., Yorgason, J.B., Larson, J.H., & Sandberg, J.G. (2013). Couple communication as a mediator between work–family conflict and marital satisfaction. Contemporary Family Therapy, 35(3), 530-545.
Finkel, E.J., Slotter, E.B., Luchies, L.B., Walton, G.M., & Gross, J.J. (2013). A Brief Intervention to Promote Conflict Reappraisal Preserves Marital Quality Over Time. Psychological Science, 24(8), 1595-1601.
Lavner, J.A., & Bradbury, T.N. (2012). Why do even satisfied newlyweds eventually go on to divorce? Journal of Family Psychology, 26(1), 1-10.
Markman, H.J., Rhoades, G.K., Stanley, S.M., Ragan, E.P., & Whitton, S.W. (2012). The premarital communication roots of marital distress and divorce: the first five years of marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 289-298.
Rogge, R.D., Cobb, R.J., Lawrence, E., Johnson, M.D., & Bradbury, T.N. (2013). Is skills training necessary for the primary prevention of marital distress and dissolution? A 3-year experimental study of three interventions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(6), 949-961.
Segrin, C., & Flora, J. (2011). Family Communication. New York, New York: Routledge.
Schmidt, C.D., Luquet, W., & Gehlertc, N.C. (2015). Evaluating the Impact of the “Getting The Love You Want” Couples Workshop on Relational Satisfaction and Communication Patterns. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 15(1), 1-18.
Appendix 1: Survey
- What program for marital distress prevention have you completed? Why?
- What did you hope to receive in the course of the program?
- What was the program’s format?
- What were the key communication skills you gained? Do these skills help you resolve the marital problems? In what way?
- What supplementary communication skills would you like to further develop?
- Would you like to attend another program of a similar type?
- How long have you been married?
- Is this your first marriage?