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The Effectiveness of Marriage Conflict Resolution Programs in the USA Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 2nd, 2020


Marriage is an institution that can be found in any society. Every society has its own definition and arrangement of marriage and as a result, it is likely to find many differences as to what marriage is composed of (Strong, De Vault, and Cohen, 2010).

Nevertheless, in all situations marriage is always founded on the expectations of the couples to have an enriching experience that is composed of stable and assured companionship, increased financial security, sexual gratification, and more importantly, a welcome relief from stressors of single life (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

Further, marriage has been embraced by the larger society given its immeasurable contribution to the wellbeing of society largely through providing a stable environment for children to be born, grow up, and become members of the society (Nevid, 2007; Strong, De Vault, and Cohen, 2010).

When individuals get married, hope always is that such marriage should stay permanently and continue into unforeseen future. Although this may be the wish of everyone, it is not always that all marriages go well.

Divorce is what characterizes dysfunctional marriages. In its occurrence, divorce has been described to be unhappy occasion since breaking is accompanied by many costs in terms of financial and emotions.

For instance, couples divorcing are forced to divide their families, properties and even their lives, which in most cases is not easy. Fresh research continues to be generated on the most appropriate ways divorce can be reduced in the society (Knox and Schacht, 2009). Therefore, any attempt to explore and carry more research in this field is laudable especially for future policy-work.

That is why research work on the above-proposed title will be a great and positive step towards generating useful information for future policy-work.

Problem statement

Divorce is an issue that is eating modern society and specifically the American society. Research in the area of divorce continues to draw more attention and today more effort has been channeled in researching on the issue. As research in the field continues to draw more interest, there is need also for more research work in the area concerning the various modern programs that are aimed at ensuring divorce rate in the society goes down.

The availability of statistics and profound information on divorce in America makes it possible to design various program-solutions that can be administered to various categories of people who have been identified as the most affected by divorce cases or likelihood. Given that divorce still face stigma in modern society, there are spirited efforts to develop prevention programs that can result into reduction or prevention of divorce.

Such prevention programs have largely been in form of marriage education workshops, where couples meet under a qualified marriage instructor who later provides marriage instructions in key areas such as communication, conflict resolution, and parenting skills. Therefore, an attempt to understand the role, contribution, and effectiveness of the various divorce prevention programs is welcome and timely.

The research will specifically dwell on the conflict resolution programs, whereby through application of both quantitative and qualitative research techniques, there will be an attempt to find and evaluate the success of the programs.

Rationale for the Research

It is no longer secret that divorce is causing negative impacts on the society as a whole (Fletcher, 2002). Today, estimates indicate that for the last ten years, divorce rate in the American society has remained stable at 50% for the first marriages, 65% for the second marriages and higher statistics for the rest successive marriages (Fletcher, 2002).

Garner (2008) observes that divorce in modern American society is a serious problem that is “affecting an exponentially increasing number of people.” The author goes a head to note that about 50% of those divorcing manifest lack of civilized relations with each other in their marriage (Garner, 2008).

Further, another 50% of those who divorce were found “continued with the conflict and problems they had in the marriage or possibly worse” (Garner, 2008).

In another related research, Hetherington found out that “80% of people do not improve their lives by divorcing their spouses” (Garner, 2008). As such divorce was identified as a problem in society that “affects couples who went through divorce, their children, parents, extended family and friends” (Garner, 2008).

For example, statistics shows that 10% of adults who divorce experience serious problems while 10-15% of children also experience serious problems (Garner, 2008). Therefore, in American society today, “millions of people are living with serious problems due of their own or their parents divorcing” (Garner, 2008).

Given these alarming statistics, it is evident that an attempt to carry out detailed research work in the issue of divorce is welcome provided the generated information will unravel some of the issues still untouched.

Therefore the rationale for this research paper will be to gain greater understanding of how divorce prevention programs work and in which way such programs can be enhanced to ensure their effectiveness in reducing cases of divorce in American society

Research hypothesis

Hypotheses are educated guesses at what the outcome of the study may be (Hall 2008). In this particular research study, the hypothesis to be statistically investigated is:

Does marital counseling contribute to lower statistics of divorces than divorces without marital counseling?

Research Objectives

The motivation in undertaking any research work is usually inscribed in the overall objective of the research. Thus, research objectives constitute all those reasons why the research is necessary and has to be undertaken and what will be the impact or benefit of the research.

Divorce is currently impacting the family and larger society negatively. At the same time, divorce is still largely stigmatized and therefore whenever it takes place, it leaves the victims both financially, socially, psychologically, and physically deprived.

With this in mind, undertaking a research on the divorce prevention programs is necessary and timely for the research will be able to provide important information concerning divorce in American society. Information will be generated through both quantitative and qualitative instruments and information is perceived to meet certain objectives. First, information concerning divorce rate and the current statistics will be generated.

This will be critical to have accurate information concerning divorce rate in America. Second, the research will identify some of the effective divorce prevention programs that have been implemented in society. In doing so, the research will be able to assess their effectiveness and possible recommendations for improvement.

As such, information generated and compiled will be important to various stakeholders in the field of marriage counseling especially at policy level. Divorce prevention programs need to be created on the understanding of existing programs, there effectiveness and the need to re-equip and re-structure them.

Therefore, this research will be appropriate in providing such information. Lastly, given this research will look at divorce conflict prevention programs, a solid body of knowledge will be created and this will serve as a solid ground for future research work in the field.

Definition of terms

Counseling: This is a process whereby specialized skills are employed in helping people with emotional, situational, psychological, or practical issues in the daily life (Guindon, 2010).

Couples: These are partners dating, engaged, unmarried living together, or married and living together (Hunt, Hof and DeMaria, 1998).

Divorce: This is a concept that has been defined as the formal dissolution of a valid marriage by judicial decree (Mitchell, 2009).

Divorce prevention: a process that involves raising marriage protective factors and lowering marriage risk factors (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

Society: This is a composition of persons who exhibit diverse beliefs and ways of living, who live in a particulate defined locality (Stubbs, 1996).

Chapter summary

Divorce in contemporary society is rampant and its impact to the larger society is evident. American society has become one of the major casualties where divorcing is greatly affecting many people. In order to handle the problem more effectively, there is paramount need to understand the factors contributing to divorce.

Thereafter, more effort should be made at identifying some of the divorce prevention programs available, their strengths, and weaknesses. Lastly, when the above has been done, attention should be directed at evaluating the effectiveness of the programs to discover whether they actually help reduce divorce rate in society.

Overall, this section is basically concerned with introducing the idea that appropriate divorce counseling and prevention programs lead to reduction in divorce cases.

Review of Related Literature

Divorce process and factors that contribute to divorce

Life events combine with daily stressors to constitute key factors that make marriage break (Gold, 1988). These key stressors and life events have been categorized into two major groups: macro-factors of divorce and micro factors of divorce (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

Some of the macro-factors contributing to increased divorce in society include increased economic independence of women, whereby women who finds gainful employment outside their homes may decide to leave their husbands in order to pursue their careers (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

Another factor is the changing family functions and structure in the modern world, whereby many of the protective, religious, educational, and recreational functions of the family have been substituted by outside agencies (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

Another reason has to do with changing and liberalizing divorce laws, where in America majority of states recognizes some forms of non-fault divorce (Knox and Schacht, 2009). At the same time, in the modern society there are fewer moral and religious sanctions, where marriage is being viewed as a secular entity and not a religious obligation (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

With these understanding among many people, divorce today is accepted more easily will little moral orb religious sanctions. Other macro-factors contributing to divorce include those marrying for the first time are likely to divorce since couples view such marriages as temporal (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

Today American society is full of more divorce models thus many people especially youth couples are likely to divorce as a result of influence from the model (Knox and Schacht, 2009). Lastly, macro-factors such as mobility and anonymity and individualistic goals cultural goal of happiness have all contributed to increasing divorce rates in USA (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

Macro-factors have to do largely with the individual and immediate family specifically with regard to the type of relationships couples establish. Key factors in this category contributing to divorce include loss of love, where when couples feel that the other partner does not love her or him, divorce may be embrace (Knox and Schacht, 2009). Negative behaviors from both partners may infuriate the other and divorce may be sought.

When there is total absence of conflict resolution skills, couples may find it difficult to cope with the other and hence divorce may be the solution to their persistent conflicts (Knox and Schacht, 2009). Values changes by couples may results into differences that may be a problem to solve and when they become mature, tolerance level collapses and couples may seek divorce (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

Other micro-factors identified include aspects such as satiation where couples loose desire for each other; extra-marital relationships; and the increasing societal perception that divorcing is better than being married (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

Other related factors include: having little in common; courting for a shorter period; marrying while still young; differences as a result of race, education, age and religion; and lastly, poor communication skills (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

Strength of Current Divorce Prevention Programs in USA?

Divorce prevention in the society has become pre-occupation of many counselors and therapists. John H. Harvey and Amy Wenzel, observe that there exists a multitude of divorce prevention programs but in general, there is scarcity of research addressing the effectiveness of majority of these programs (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

In most cases, marriage education workshops have been established and used as mechanisms to bring couples together and provide useful advice information with regard to communication, conflict resolution and parenting skills (Knox and Schacht, 2009).

As a result of these marriage workshops, Stanley (2005) found that the programs had positive outcomes in marital functioning (cited in Knox and Schacht, 2009). Further, it should be noted that majority of prevention programs have originated from skills training approach (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

According to the skills training approach, emphasis is put on teaching couple’s skills that are important in managing differences, disagreements and conflicts that may arise in the family (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002). These prevention programs have identified communication as key aspect that when effectively trained can help couples solve and manage their conflicts.

As a result, the key component of these programs has been training couples in effective communication strategies (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002). Therefore, some notable prevention programs include prevention and relationship enhancement program (PREP); relationship enhancement (RE); and couples communication (CC) programs (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

Relationship Enhancement (RE) is a program that is designed to develop empathy and mutual understanding with aim of enhancing intimacy, manage conflict, and effectively deal with numerous difficulties that emerge among couples (Byington and Seattle Pacific University, 2009). It has been identified that Couples differences may originate from the following sources: differences in beliefs, feelings, needs, and desires.

Therefore, the foundation of the program basing on these differences has been constructed based on a set of ten communication and problem-solving skills where couples are able to identify and address the most issues affecting their relationship (Byington and Seattle Pacific University, 2009).

The author observes that RE are largely enhanced with the aim of not just changing the dysfunctional behaviors with couple relationship, but also empowering couples in order to prevent future problems or to equip the couples have faster conflict resolution skills in future problems (Byington and Seattle Pacific University, 2009).

There has been identification of four major skills that RE deals with speaking, listening, role switching and facilitating (Byington and Seattle Pacific University, 2009).Effectiveness of these programs has been evaluated by numerous researchers. For example, the RE has been found to be effective in terms of communication skills, disclosure, and empathy for the participants in the program (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

At the same time, Byington and Seattle Pacific University (2009) observes that RE as compared to CC, manifest more superior capabilities whereby RE has been found to increase marital satisfaction as demonstrated from Marital Communication Inventory and a follow-up test of three months (Byington and Seattle Pacific University, 2009).

Further comparison has been made between RE and waitlist control group where it has been found that there are significant improvements in marital quality as evidenced from the Interpersonal Relationship Scale (Byington and Seattle Pacific University, 2009).

The second program is the couple communication (CC) which initially was known as the Minnesota Couples Communication Project (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002). CC is developed from combination of related theories largely grounded in system theory, communication theory, and family development theory (Miller et al., 1976 cited in Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

In designing and implementing the program, two goals are desired: provide help to couples to develop greater understanding of their interaction patterns and rules of communication (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

Second, the program aims at increasing the ability to change the current interactions rules and patterns that are not effective and advising the couples to embrace direct, clear, and open communication about the relationship (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

With regard to couple’s communication (CC) program, meta-analysis research has established that the program has been found to exhibit positive outcomes among the participants (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

For instance, the program had positive results for couples observed communication skills and on the couples self-report of communication skills (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002). Nevertheless, it was also established that the effect size of CC declined on subsequent follow-ups (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

The third prevention program is the PREP where marriage couples are trained in skills that intend to avert future distress in their relationships (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002). Development of PREP was largely based on knowledge acquired through empirical research (Segrin and Flora, 2005).

Accordingly, PREP is premised on the need to identify those phenomena that have high potential of resulting into marital satisfaction and stability or deterioration (Segrin and Flora, 2005).

Four major goals have been identified that PREP address: teaching good communication skills; clarifying and evaluating expectations for marriage; creating an understanding about choices and commitment to the relationship; and enhancing the couple’s bond through fun, friendship and sensuality (Stanley et al. 1999 cited in Segrin and Flora, 2005).

In an attempt to carry out evaluation of this program, extensive designed studies have been carried out among different population groups. In some of the designed studies that have been carried out, it has been found out that couples who take part in PREP in most cases exhibit increased positive communication and decreased negative communication as compared to control groups (Stanley et al., 2001 cited in Segrin and Flora, 2005).

Moreover, it has been found that participating in PREP for longer periods, couples exhibited higher relational satisfaction, fewer sexual difficulties and fewer instances of physical violence as compared to couples in control groups (Markman et al., 1993 cited in Segrin and Flora, 2005).

What are some of the Weaknesses of the Identified Programs?

Related research on PREP has indicated that after about four or five years after participating in PREP, couples manifested no significant differences in the divorce and separation rate of couples who had participated in PREP (Markman et al., 1993 cited in Segrin and Flora, 2005).

At the same time, more research was undertaken in Netherlands whereby statistics indicated that upon completion of the program, there were no recorded reduction in breakups, problem intensity had increased and sexual dissatisfaction were higher as compared to couples who were under control studies (Van-Widenfelf, Hosman, Schaap and Staak, 1996 cited in Segrin and Flora, 2005).

Other identified weakness of this program has to do with potential self-selection bias that ultimately leads to fewer couples completing the program thus evaluation may not capture the actual picture on the ground. As a result, testing and evaluating the success of PREP has only involved highly motivated couples in program (Segrin and Flora, 2005).

Relationship Enhancement (RE) programs have also been found to exhibit some weakness. For example, through an assessment that was carried out on the program involving the educated and less educated couples, (Halford, 2011) found out that generalizability of the results was for educated couples (Halford, 2011).

In this way, generalizability of less educated couples is still untested, a situation that renders the program to be somehow ineffective. Another weakness of this program has to do with exclusive reliance on self-report assessment. (Halford, 2011) observes that self-report may not accurately identify some key risk factors.

More so, Sanders et al. (1999) note that self-reports of couple communication in early stage relationships often do not reflect subtle communication deficits that are detectable with observational assessment (Halford, 2011).

Couple’s Communication, just like other programs of marriage counseling has exhibited some weaknesses. In a well-concluded research Butler and Wampler (1999) observes that CC has a smaller effect on couple’s self-report of communication skills (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

Further, it has been found out that gains achieved through impacting communication skills among couples tended to decrease and even deteriorate as time went by (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

Lastly, although CC proved to be effective and useful to enhancing couple’s relationship satisfaction immediately after taking part in the program, it was noted that, the overall effect reduced to moderate in the subsequent follow-up (Harvey and Wenzel, 2002).

Chapter summary

In this chapter, marriage was identified to be the dream of many people and hope is always that once married couples should stay into indefinite future. In this chapter evidence have shown that couples are faced with many life events and stressors that when inappropriately managed results into conflicts.

Conflicts were found to characterize many marriages where sometimes couples may find it difficult to form meaningful relationship and conflict resolution strategies.

When this happen, then divorce is likely to occur. Nevertheless, numerous programs were identified that have been used to provide conflict resolution strategies to couples that in turn help such couples avoid likeliness of divorcing. Researches from multiple authors have confirmed the effectiveness of these programs but there is need for improvement to realize meaningful results.


This section aims to provide the structure of the study, which will serve as a guide for the overall flow of the research. Identifying the most appropriate research design, data collection technique, setting and sample of the study, instruments, and data analysis will help in the attainment of the main goal of this research proposal. The methodology section is sub-divided under the following sub-headings:

Research Participants

It is proposed that this particular study will gauge on both constructionist and positivistic approach (Gergen, 1999 cited in Bakhurst, 2011) wherein scientific and rational justification shall be implemented in coordination with subjective construction of insights entailed by constructionism (Audi, 2010). To achieve this objective, the research will select participants in the most appropriate way that avoid bias.

Therefore, research participants to be included in this study will include soldiers in their first marriage, soldiers in their second marriage and divorces from the United States Army Reserve Command. Further, the study will also incorporate a counselor from the Family Advocacy Center at Fort Bragg, NC.

Research Design

As this study will utilize both constructionist and positivistic paradigms, the focal point will be to derive objectivity and in-depth analysis of the study. In so doing, quantitative and qualitative approaches are applied.

Through a combination of these research designs, data to be retrieved will be gauged using both strength of qualitative and quantitative designs, which include the strength of validity and reliability found in quantitative approach, while the qualitative design offers in-depth analysis of data.

In this manner, it is expected that a more robust and meaningful conclusion can be gauged by the research (Bryman, 1988 cited in Udokwu and University of Missouri, 2009).

Research objectives and research questions are developed in order to set the focus of the study. For this research paper, descriptive research will be adopted implying that the study shall gauge on existing characteristics of the variables under the study within its own natural setting.

The study will initially locate and identify divorce prevention programs that have been designed and implemented in USA. The respondents will be soldiers from the United States Army Reserve Command and a counselor from Family Advocacy Center at Fort Bragg, NC. First, the research will start by contacting the counselor where a survey will be carried out on the existing programs.

Then survey will also incorporate the soldiers who have participated in these programs. The counselor’s opinion and perception will be sought through the interviewed on how counseling programs have been effective in reducing divorce cases. Thus, it will be possible to learn the programs, which have been effectively implemented. Survey of soldiers’ feedback will be necessary for feedback purposes.

Proposed Analysis of the Data

The instrument to be utilized is a self-developed questionnaire, which will be composed of ten items with additional eleven open-ended interview questionnaires. The first set is gauged to inquire the counselor’s opinion and perception on how effective and successful the divorce prevention programs have been achieving goals of divorce reduction. Four likert scales will be used to assess the strength of agreement on each item.

On the other hand, the second set is for the survey of soldiers who have taken part in these programs. The eleven-item questionnaire will supplement information for the answers derived from the interview with counseling therapists. Data will be analyzed using Microsoft Excel, 2010 version.

Various pivot tables in form of frequencies, mean, and mode will be used for cross tabulation. In addition, graphs of comparison will be used and other statistical data will be accomplished using different Function tools within Excel. Data analysis will be in accordance to stated research questions and research hypothesis.

Results expected from the study include the number of soldiers who have participated in marriage and divorce prevention programs; the number of times participated; the duration that was spend in the program; the designation and process of teaching the program. At the same time, rate of divorce, weak marriages and young marriages will be generated from the three categories of marriages: first, second and divorces.

At the same time, results concerning reasons as to why people divorce will be generated from the research. The number of counseling programs, their rate of effectiveness, and their rate of failure will be generated.

Determination and analysis of categories of respondents will largely be demonstrated through use of mean tables, graphs, and pie charts. Percentages will be calculated with regard to responses on any given variable being investigated.

Implications and limitations

It is implied that counseling actually helps keeps marriages health and couples. Counseling will prevent divorces; however, this is not always the case. Even with adoption of some counseling programs, the rate of divorce in the population remains unchanged.

Some of the identified weaknesses of the programs have to do with ineffectiveness in self-assessment reports, lack of representative samples in gauging effectiveness of programs and deterioration of impact over a long period. Therefore, it is required that for effectiveness to be realized need assessment of client has to be thoroughly undertaken before recommending any particular program to the client.

Given that divorce is an issue that is complex and one that no particular individual would find great pleasure in narrating: time and financial resources may be a limit. This is particularly with regard to large number of respondents the research will want to interview.

Another limitation may arise from research instrumentation, whereby the selected samples may not provide the exact information concerning their reasons for divorce especially those perceived to be private and secret.

Lastly, limitation of the research will be exhibited in terms of content, whereby the research will confine itself to conflict resolution programs and how success they are. Thus, information on other programs such as communication and parenting styles may not be investigated.

Ethics of Research

Research ethics imply the cautious administration of research procedures especially when it comes to human subjects. In which case, this study shall be composed of human participants, thus, ethical processes must be observed. First permission will be sought from relevant regulatory board for the research proposal.

After obtaining the necessary approval, finding the right settings for the study and the participants who will be involved in the research will be the next step. Thus, prospective therapists and beneficiary participants will be gauged from the list obtained from the department. To apply fairness, a random selection technique shall be applied. In this manner, anonymity and confidentiality of information are important considerations.

Prior to continuing with the research, it is vitally important that consent be derived from the participants. Apart from this, the objective of the study is also explained to the therapists so as for them to know the honest intention of the research. Likewise, they will be guaranteed access to the results of the study and information on best practices, which can be applied in their context.

Chapter summary

The methodology for this study will be mixed methodology such that it will apply both qualitative and quantitative research designs. The main objective of which is to utilize the collaborative strength of the two research designs where the quantitative design is able to provide reliable and objective results whilst the qualitative research applies in-depth analysis of data.

Research instruments to be used will be self-developed questionnaires and Four likert scales. Through these instruments it is believed that appropriate and accurate data will be generated that will further be analyzed through Microsoft Excel, 2010 version and various pivotal tables.


Divorce in American society is rife and the problem can be tackled by implementation of appropriate prevention programs. There exists numerous prevention programs as identified and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. However, there is necessity for research on the effectiveness and success of the programs in order to ensure future programs are enhanced when designing is taking place.

This will ensure meaningful results are realized with regard to divorce prevention in the American society. Through undertaking this research, it is believed a body of knowledge will be created that in turn will offer insight in to the success of divorce prevention programs. This will enable key stakeholders to utilize the information in more meaningful and productive way.


  1. Copies of instruments that will be used
    1. Questions from questionnaire
      • What is your name?
      • What is your age?
      • Type of your marriage: first marriage second marriage divorcee
      • Do you find it easy to talk with each other?
      • Are you open to constructive feedback?
      • Do you accept your mistakes and learn from them?
      • Is your marriage free from intimidation and abuse of all kinds?
      • Are you capable of forgiving yourself and your partner?
      • Do you take responsibility for your own behaviors and happiness?
      • Can you communicate them clearly?
      • Do you think that counseling will save your marriage?
  2. Participant permission form –
  3. Time line – proposal time line is 6 months

Research Time-framework



Due date


1 Stage 1: Area of interest identified 05.08.11
2 Stage 2: Specific topic selected 15.08.11
3 Stage 3: Topic refined to develop dissertation proposal 22.08.11
4 Stage 4: Proposal written and submitted 05.09.11
5 Stage 5: Collection of data and information 31.10.11
6 Stage 6: Analysis and interpretation of collected data/information 20.11.11
7 Stage 7: Writing up 10.12.11
8 Stage 8: Final draft prepared – submission of dissertation 04.01.12
9 Final Deadline – six months from classroom date. 01.02.12


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Fletcher, G. J. (2002). . MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Web.

Garner, C. N. (2008). “The reality of divorce: A Study of the effects of divorce on parents and their children.” Fortified Marriages Ministry, Liberty University. Web.

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Guindon, M. (2010). : An Introduction to the Profession. MA: Taylor & Francis. Web.

Halford, W. K. (2011). : What Works and How to Provide It. NY: Guilford Press. Web.

Hall, R. (2008). : planning, designing and conducting real-world research. Sydney: Palgrave Macmillan Australia. Web.

Harvey, J. H. and Wenzel, A. (2002). A clinician’s guide to maintaining and enhancing close relationships. NY: Routledge. Web.

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Knox, D. and Schacht, C. (2009). : An Introduction to Marriage and the Family. OH: Cengage Learning. Web.

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