The Marriage Checkup Study
The Marriage Checkup (MC) is an indicated intervention for couples designed to promote relationship-healthy behaviors and to prevent or alter current patterns known to be associated with marital deterioration. Couples that ultimately become severely distressed first experience a stage in their relationships in which they evidence early symptoms of marital deterioration but have not yet suffered pervasive damage. Couples in this stage are unlikely to seek treatment because they have not yet become distressed enough to see the need, or because the time, expense, or stigma of therapy present too great a barrier. Such couples also do not seek premarital or newlywed interventions because they are in established marriages. However, it is during this stage that couples may benefit most from early intervention. Intervening with couples at this early point fills a niche between pre marital / newly wed psychoed programs and the intensive treatment provided by couple therapy. There are currently no empirically established programs for intervening early in those patterns that may lead to relationship decay. The MC is the first such program. The intention of the Marriage Checkup project is to conduct a randomized clinical trial to test the efficacy and safety of the MC and to test mechanisms of change.
- The first objective of the study is to demonstrate that couples who are not severely distressed will be motivated to participate in the MC.
- The second objective is to determine the efficacy of the MC as a means of providing immediate relief from the symptoms of marital strain that may hinder active pursuit of improved marital health.
- The third objective is to determine the efficacy of the MC as a means of motivating appropriate help seeking by identified early-stage couples.
- The fourth objective is to determine the efficacy of the MC as a means of facilitating the prevention of marital deterioration and associated mental and physical health outcomes.
With our collaborators at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, we have been delivering the Marriage Check-Up, re-named Relationship Rx, for the purposes of this study, through a large community-based integrative healthcare organization, Cherokee Health Systems, in rural East Tennessee. This project has received federal funding from the DHHS Administration for Children and Families’ Healthy Marriage Initiative and aims to make relationship help-seeking accessible to the low-income population that Cherokee Health Systems serves by recruiting couples through primary care physician visits.
One of the unique long-term goals of this project is to move couples towards greater financial self-efficacy, collaborative decision-making around finances, and ultimately greater financial stability. Though is intended to be a longer-term secondary outcome consequent to more general relationship health gains such as improvements in intimacy and decreased conflict, it is an example of a specific ways in which the Marriage Check-Up can be adapted to address the unique needs of various populations. Similarly, given the barriers to treatment many low-income couples experience such as difficulty with transportation and childcare, we are offering the Marriage Check-Up as a home-based treatment as opposed to asking participants to travel to an office or community center. We anticipate that these adaptations of the original MC protocol will enable the intervention to not only reach the low-income rural population that Cherokee Health System serves, but to also be of specific value to the unique issues couples amongst this population face, such as financial hardship. To learn more, please visit: http://relationshiprx.utk.edu/
Marriage Checkup: United States Air Force
We are working with Lt. Colonel Jeffrey Cigrang and the Air Force on a pilot study implementing the Marriage Checkup for military couples in a primary care setting. Behavioral health consultants at the Wright-Patterson AFB Primary Care Clinic are offering a free Marriage Checkup for military couples as part of a research project being sponsored by the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.
The Marriage Checkup Abroad: Denmark
We are also collaborating with Danish researchers at Aarhus University and The Center for Familieudvikling to evaluate a version of the Marriage Checkup in Denmark (called Par-tjek). This project is part of a broader effort to disseminate and adapt the Marriage Checkup around the world.