The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Relationship Commitment Among African American Couples With Young Children Following a Relationship Education Program: A Dyadic Analysis

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 6:00 PM
Marriott Riverwalk, River Terrace, Upper Parking Level, Elevator Level P2 (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Katherine M. Winham, MS, MSSW, Doctoral Student, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Jesse Owen, PhD, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Jill L. Adelson, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Purpose: Couple commitment is crucial for overall couple relationship satisfaction; however, for low-income, African American couples economic stressors combined with the effects of ongoing discrimination can have a negative impact on relationship satisfaction. Given the negative consequences of relationship instability, interventions are needed to improve relationship outcomes. Couple relationship education programs such as Prevention and Relationship Education Program (PREP) have been shown to provide an effective means for improving commitment in African American couples; however, it is unknown how aspects of commitment may impact changes in relationship satisfaction through participation in PREP for both the individual and his or her partner, how these aspects of commitment differ by gender, and how PREP format (couple vs. group) may impact the effectiveness of the intervention.


Method: Using a naturalistic pre- and posttest design, the sample consisted of 424 individuals (212 couples).  All participants identified as heterosexual, unmarried, African American, lived in low-income Chicago neighborhoods, and were expecting or recently had a child.  Couples completed the 16-hour PREP program either in a group (multiple couples with co-group leaders) or couple format (one couple with one leader).  Change in relationship satisfaction was calculated by subtracting pretest scores on the Dyadic Adjustment Scale-4 from posttest scores.  Couple commitment was measured through dedication and constraint scales, with change scores between pre- and posttest calculated for both.  Pretest negative and positive communication measure was used to control for the effects of communication.  Gender and interaction terms for constraint and for dedication commitment by gender were included in the model.


Results:  A multilevel model, in which individuals were nested in couples, was conducted using the actor-partner interdependence analytical method.  Findings from the final model indicated that on average couples reported higher relationship satisfaction following participation in the PREP program (γ00=3.71, p<.001) and that the couple format over the group format was related to improvements in relationship satisfaction (γ01=2.31, p<.001), accounting for 34% of the between-couple variance in changes in relationship satisfaction.  Additionally, increases in individual (actor) dedication commitment were related to greater increases in relationship satisfaction (γ50=.90, p<.001), as were increases in partner dedication commitment (γ60=.28, p=.013).  These findings indicate that, on average, as an individual’s dedication increases, his or her own relationship satisfaction increases and that as women increase their levels of dedication commitment, men report higher relationship satisfaction (and vice versa).  Interestingly, once PREP format was added to the model, constraint commitment was not a significant predictor of individual or partner relationship satisfaction.  Gender and the interaction effects between gender and both dedication and constraint did not contribute significantly to the model. 

Implications: The findings support the efficacy of PREP as an intervention for diverse, low-income, high-risk populations and shed light on some of the specific dynamics underlying its effectiveness including targeting dedication commitment and utilizing a couple format when possible to enhance program effectiveness.