Dr. Thomas Bradbury,
University of California at Los Angeles
It is not unusual for couples to go to marriage preparation classes
or premarital counseling. Dr. Bradbury's research will test an unusual
adjunct: forgiveness coaching. He will compare the outcomes of preparation
that includes forgiveness coaching with counseling along standard
Although there are 2.4 million marriages each year in the United
States, about half these marriages will end in divorce. "Usually
the damage is done within the first two or three years," says Dr.
Thomas Bradbury, a psychologist at the University of California
at Los Angeles.
Formerly a marriage
counselor, Bradbury has turned to researching how to prevent a marriage
from hitting the rocks. "When couples came to see me for counseling,
it was a case of 'too little, too late'," says Bradbury. "So I decided
to start a research program that focuses on the positive aspects
of the relationship early on, and that teaches skills that help
couples nurture and support each other."
Bradbury's study will
involve 225 couples who are engaged or have been married for no
longer than 6 months. Couples will participate in small groups,
and will receive 17 hours of instruction on communication skills
that have been identified in prior longitudinal research on marriage.
The sessions will include brief workshop lectures, along with frequent
individual coaching sessions with the couples. The goal of these
sessions is to give couples the information and the skills they
need to keep their relationship strong, and to prevent problems
before they start.
The study program splits
couples into five groups which use five different models of intervention.
While some utilize traditional conflict resolution methods, others
focus on coaching partners in the skills of empathy, sharing and
listening. Some groups emphasize forgiveness as a skill for supporting
and developing compassion, while others do not.
audio taping of marital discussions, and interviews, Bradbury will
compare the effectiveness of each type of intervention, including
forgiveness coaching. His ultimate goal is to shape a new model
for marriage guidance - a model that he hopes will be implemented
with the help of religious and community organizations.
Bradbury hopes that
marital interventions will eventually focus on building practical
skills that keep people happy, rather than on fixing what's broken.
"Marriage can be quite difficult, especially when both spouses have
jobs and there are children in the family," says Bradbury, "I would
like to help couples learn the skills needed to keep the relationship
strong, so that it stays as a source of strength rather than as
a source of stress."
As other states move
to follow Louisiana by mandating pre-marital counseling, Bradbury's
research couldn't be more timely. "If we're going to mandate interventions,
let's first find out which interventions work," he says. "Creating
the illusion of doing something is worse than doing nothing."
Dr. Thomas Bradbury
is a Professor of Psychology at the University of California at
Los Angeles. He is also the co-editor of "The Psychology of Marriage"
and the editor of "The Developmental Course on Marital Dysfunction."
He has twice received the Reuben Hill Award for Research on Marriage
and the Family from the National Council on Family Relations and
he is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early
Career Contributions from the American Psychological Association.
This research project is fully funded by the Campaign for Forgiveness