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Thursday, September 21, 2017

CED Department of Educational and Human Sciences

OFA Together Project

In October 2006, The Office of Financial Assistance of the U.S. Department of Healthy and Human Services has awarded the Institute a five-year grant to design and implement the Together Project. The Together Project aims to bring marriage education services to low-income married couples with children in the Central Florida region and to collect data comparing couples who participate in marriage education with those in a control condition. Over the life of the project, the goal is to serve 200 couples and to collect data on 200 control couples. Control couples will be placed on a waiting list for services and will be eligible for marriage counseling services at the UCF Community Counseling Clinic after completing one-year follow-up data.

The marriage education treatment for the Together Project is the PAIRS curriculum (Gordon & Frandsen, 1993). There is some empirical support for the PAIRS approach (c.f. Durana, 1998; Goss, 1995). The curriculum was selected because it has this research support and because it focuses on emotional intimacy and bonding rather than a purely behavioral skills approach. The PAIRS approach centers both on positive emotions and positive skills. This is consistent with recent findings (Bradbury & Karney, 2004) which suggest that good problem solving alone does not guarantee marital success. If the couple has the ability to exchange affection, use humor and interact with interest, they are just as likely to be successful. When these emotions are absent, problem-solving skills have a greater ability to cause dissatisfaction. In conclusion, positive emotional exchanges seem to be able to counteract poor problem solving skills.

Research suggests that environmental stressors and lack of resources directly affect the quality and stability of marriages (Karney & Bradbury, 2005). In short, it is harder to keep a relationship together when environmental stresses are severe. For example, the ability to pay a babysitter affects a couple’s ability to attend marriage education workshops or have date nights without the children. Lack of funds to pay bills places additional stress on the couple and allows them fewer resources for leisure activities and restorative play to buffer stress (Ooms, 2004; Karney, Story, & Bradbury, 2005).

Recruitment is considered to be the most significant challenge in the project. Marketing materials will be designed especially for the identified population and distributed in the venues where low-income couples interact. The Community Liaison will continually recruit couples through contacts with community service agencies, faith-based agencies, clergy and governmental entities. A snowball approach to recruiting will also be utilized. A snowball approach involves asking qualified couples to nominate other individuals they know who might be appropriate and then asking these referrals to nominate others (Vogt, 1999). Additionally, childcare, family support services, extended marital educational activities, and financial incentives for participation also will serve as key recruitment tools while addressing potential barriers that would prevent couples from taking advantage of marital education services. To combat the obstacles to retention participants will receive financial incentives for attendance and for the completion of assessments. In addition the marriage education curriculum will be delivered in the community, e.g. faith-based and community agencies that serve this population. This is designed to remove the barriers associated with long distance travel and unfamiliarity with the setting.