Unhappy Marriages: Does Counselling Help? (Final Report to ACCORD)


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Final Report

By

Kieran McKeown
Pauline Lehane
Rosemary Rock
Trutz Haase
Jonathan Pratschke

Kieran McKeown Limited,
Social & Economic Research Consultant,
16 Hollybank Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, Ireland.
Phone and Fax: +353 1 8309506. E-mail: kmckeown@iol.ie

Report to ACCORD
ACCORD Central Office, Columba Centre, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.

December 2002

Published by
ACCORD Catholic Marriage Care Service
Columba Centre
Maynooth
Co. Kildare
© 2002 ACCORD Catholic Marriage Care Service & Kieran McKeown


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Full Table of Contents
Foreword
Acknowledgements

 

 


 

Table of Contents

FOREWORD

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

CHAPTER ONE
MARRIAGE AND WELL-BEING

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Marriage in Ireland
1.3 Marriage and Well-Being
1.3.1 Marriage in General
1.3.2 Good and Bad Marriages
1.4 Summary and Conclusion

CHAPTER TWO
RESEARCH ON THERAPEUTIC EFFECTIVENESS

2.1 Introduction
2.2 Effectiveness of Counselling and Psychotherapy
2.2.1 Therapy Works
2.2.2 All Therapeutic Techniques Are About Equally Effective
2.3 Client Characteristics and Social Support
2.3.1 Demographics/Socio-economic Factors
2.3.2 Problems and Personality Traits
2.3.3 Cognitive Processes
2.3.4 Traditional versus Egalitarian Relationships
2.3.5 Unfaithfulness
2.3.6 Social Support
2.4 Therapist-Client Relationship
2.5 Client Hopefulness
2.6 Therapeutic Technique
2.7 Conclusion

CHAPTER THREE
METHODOLOGY

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research Design
3.3 The Clients
3.4 The Questionnaires
3.4.1 Clients' Demographic and Socio-economic Variables
3.4.2 Clients' Counselling Objectives
3.4.3 Quality of Couple Relationship
3.4.4 Mental Health
3.4.5 Processes of Conflict Resolution
3.4.6 Domestic Violence
3.4.7 Unfaithfulness
3.4.8 Perception of Parents' Marital Relationship
3.4.9 Support Networks
3.5 Structure of Report

CHAPTER FOUR
SOCIO-ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS OF CLIENTS

4.1 Introduction
4.2 Age and Gender
4.3 Relationship and Marital Status
4.4 Length of Relationship
4.5 Children
4.6 Social Class Characteristics
4.7 Employment Characteristics
4.8 Hours Worked
4.9 Unsocial Hours Worked
4.10 Home Ownership
4.11 Subjective Financial Well-Being
4.12 Assessment of Parent's Marital Relationship
4.13 Conclusion

CHAPTER FIVE
RELATIONSHIP CHARACTERISTICS OF CLIENTS

5.1 Introduction
5.2 Marital Adjustment
5.3 Stress Level
5.4 Ways of Resolving Conflict
5.5 Criticism, Insults and Not Listening
5.6 Excessive Drinking
5.7 Unfaithfulness
5.8 Domestic Violence
5.9 Sharing Childcare and Housework
5.10 Summary and Conclusion

CHAPTER SIX
FACTORS PROMOTING UNHAPPINESS IN MARRIAGE

6.1 Introduction
6.2 Regression Analysis
6.3 Behavioural Influences on Marital Adjustment
6.3.1 Negative Behaviours
6.3.2 Styles of Resolving Conflict
6.4 Dissatisfaction with Task-Sharing
6.5 Socio-economic Influences on Marital Adjustment
6.6 Stress and Marital Adjustment
6.7 Excessive Drinking and Marital Adjustment
6.8 Summary and Conclusion

CHAPTER SEVEN
CONTEXT FOR SEEKING COUNSELLING

7.1 Introduction
7.2 Support Networks
7.3 Time Spent Thinking About Coming for Counselling
7.4 Who Initiated Counselling?
7.5 Client's Therapeutic Goals
7.6 Perceptions of ACCORD
7.7 Summary and Conclusion

CHAPTER EIGHT
COUNSELLING IN ACCORD

8.1 Introduction
8.2 What is ACCORD?
8.3 Approach to Counselling
8.4 Selection,Training and Supervision
8.5 Summary and Conclusion

CHAPTER NINE
CHANGES FOLLOWING COUNSELLING

9.1 Introduction
9.2 Clients Who Completed End of Counselling Questionnaires
9.3 Changes in Marital Adjustment
9.4 Changes in Stress Levels
9.5 Changes in Ways of Resolving Conflict
9.6 Changes in Negative Behaviours
9.7 Changes in Satisfaction with Sharing of Tasks
9.8 Counselling Sessions
9.9 Clients' Perceptions of Counselling
9.10 Summary and Conclusion

CHAPTER TEN
HOW DO MARRIAGES CHANGE AFTER COUNSELLING?

10.1 Introduction
10.2 The Statistical Analysis
10.3 Influences on Marital Quality
10.3.1 Partner's Negative Behaviours
10.3.2 Satisfaction with Partner's Sharing of Tasks
10.3.3 Subjective Financial Well-Being
10.3.4 Age
10.3.5 Counsellors' Personal Qualities
10.3.6 Counselling Sessions
10.3.7 Factors Having No Influence on Marital Quality After Counselling
10.4 Influences on Stress Levels after Counselling
10.4.1 Partner Variables
10.4.2 Socio-Demographic Variables
10.4.3 Counsellor's Personal Qualities
10.4.4 Counselling Sessions
10.4.5 Factors Having No Influence on Marital Quality After Counselling
10.5 Summary and Conclusion

CHAPTER ELEVEN
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

11.1 Introduction
11.2 Marriage and Well-being
11.3 The Effectiveness of Counselling
11.4 Socio-Economic Characteristics of Clients
11.5 Relationship Characteristics of Clients
11.6 What Contributes to Unhappiness in Marriage?
11.7 Context for Seeking Counselling
11.8 Counselling in ACCORD
11.9 Changes After Counselling in ACCORD
11.10 How do Marriages Change after Counselling?
11.11 Conclusion
11.11.1 What contributes to unhappiness in marriage?
11.11.2 Does counselling help unhappy marriages?
11.11.3 How does counselling help unhappy marriages?

BIBLIOGRAPHY

TECHNICAL REPORT


Foreword

"Family policy must have regard to the principle that continuity and stability are major requirements in family relationships. For many people marriage represents their commitment to long term continuity and stability"

THIS DIRECT QUOTE FROM THE 1998 REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON THE FAMILY ACCURATELY REFLECTS THE FOCUS OF CURRENT GOVERNMENT POLICY ON THE CENTRAL ROLE THAT MARRIAGE CONTINUES TO PLAY IN IRELAND.

The Government's 'Families First' approach focuses on the prevention of family breakdown through the ongoing development of marriage counselling services and greater promotion of the benefits of marriage preparation programmes.

We saw earlier this year that the publication of research into the first year of marriage painted a positive picture of the benefits of marriage preparation courses. Now this research project by Dr Kieran McKeown and his team provides us with an unprecedented look at marriage and the effects of counselling through a survey of some 3500 ACCORD clients.

Research has consistently shown that having a good marriage is good for our health, happiness, longevity and of course our children. However, for every positive enjoyed in a good marriage, there are negatives affecting people in difficult marriages.

There are new pressures on marriages. Traditional parenting roles have changed in Ireland. Society no longer considers that a woman's job is to stay in the home as wife and mother. The dominant, bread-winning father is a thing of the past. Increased female participation in the labour force and the sharing of responsibilities in the house are just two of many issues facing modern marriages.

The report identifies four main factors which can impact negatively on marriages; behaviour, conflict resolution, task sharing and to a lesser extent socio-economic factors.

The importance of good communication between spouses remains constant in these changing times.

Lack of communication seems to be a major factor in the cause of marital difficulty. The findings point to the importance of communication between couples being on an equal footing with both parties willing to listen to each other. Counselling can help with the establishment of a positive hearing environment where both parties, with the assistance of a sympathetic counsellor, can learn to give expression to their emotions, to listen to each other and to change negative behaviours.

My thanks go to Kieran and his team for their time and effort in compiling this excellent report and also to Fr John Hannan of ACCORD for putting forward this research proposal and seeing it through to completion.

I'd like congratulate ACCORD counsellors throughout the country who give their time on a voluntary basis to ensure that help is always available to couples when they need it most. This research proves just what an important job they are doing.

The Government remains committed to supporting the marriage and relationship counselling sector.

Mary Coughlan T.D.
Minister for Social and Family Affairs
November 2002


Acknowledgements

We are extremely grateful to ACCORD for commissioning us to do this study. In particular we acknowledge its courage and openness in asking such a challenging question of itself: does counselling make a difference? It is a risky question because the answer is not a foregone conclusion. It is also a question of integrity since both counsellors and their clients have a right to know that the therapeutic process in which they are engaged makes a difference.

It has been a pleasure to work for ACCORD and to have the organisation's enthusiastic support for this project. We are grateful to all of the counsellors and secretaries throughout the organisation's 57 centres who have cooperated with the study by ensuring the completion of our questionnaires.

We are particularly grateful to the clients of ACCORD who, as individuals and couples, have taken the time to participate in this study.We hope that the faith which is implicit in their coming to ACCORD for counselling and their willingness to complete our questionnaires will bring them private benefits and contribute to the public good.

Our direct contact with ACCORD was through its head office whose staff have, at all times, been helpful and pleasant. One of our first contacts in ACCORD was Diarmuid Rooney whose work helped to build the foundations for this study and we are grateful for his unique blend of clarity and passion. We are also indebted to Maureen Warren who supplied us with data for Chapter Eight and who managed the process of printing and publishing the report with characteristic courtesy and efficiency.

The Assistant Director of ACCORD, Liz Early is the person with whom we have had most contact and is, by nature and disposition, probably a better researcher than any of us. Her organisational abilities combined with her understanding of the logic of the research process is a pleasure to behold and has made this a most enjoyable piece of work.

The Director of ACCORD, Fr. John Hannan is the visionary behind this research and his commitment to it has been enormously encouraging. He is a man of action and his patience has been tested by the three year gestation period of this Report between 1999 and 2002.We thank him for his patience and for the faith he has placed in us to come up with an answer to the question: does counselling make a difference?

We would also like to thank the Department of Social and Family Affairs for jointly funding this study through its Families Research Programme. The staff responsible for this programme in the Department - Catherine Hazlett, Heber McMahon and Brendan Walker - have been extremely helpful and supportive of our work throughout the study and we are grateful to them.

In acknowledging our debts to so many people, we also wish to follow the usual convention in declaring that none of the above needs to worry about being held responsible for the quality of our research or the results of our analysis; we are happy to take full responsibility for that!


Last modified:30/09/2008
 

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