Communication Management Skills Training as a Marriage Enrichment Programme in the Improvement of Marital Adjustment

 

 

 

Dr. (Mrs.) Mary Ogechi Esere

University of Ilorin, Nigeria

 

 

 

Abstract

This study investigated the efficacy of Communication Management Skills Training (CMST) in improving marital adjustment. A pre-test post-test control group design was used in the study. Twelve couples (mean age = 30.40) within Ilorin Metropolis participated in the study. They were randomly assigned to two groups: the treatment and control groups. A validated instrument titled “Married Couples’ Relationship Inventory” was administered to the two groups before and after the experimental programme. Analysis of Covariance was used to analyse the data. Results showed that the treatment package (CMST) was effective in improving the marital adjustment of couples. Based on the findings, conjoint marital therapy was recommended for any marriage enrichment programme.

Key words: Communication Management; Skills Training; Marital Adjustment

 

Introduction

 

Marriage could be defined as a legal union of man and a woman as husband and wife. It is a relationship in which two adults of the opposite sex make emotional and legal commitment to live together. Marriage being a social institution (Adegoke & Esere, 1998) fosters the coming together of two totally different individuals with different personality traits, psychological make-ups and different socio-economic backgrounds to form a family. Probably because of these differences, the institution of marriage is seen to breed more conflicts than most other social institutions (Alhassan, 1988; Esere & Idowu, 2000) and require a great deal of adjustment by the players. Marriage is equally regarded as the highest position of responsibility, caring, tolerance, endurance, perseverance and kindness among couples. The inability of couples to fulfill theses traits incapacitates the individuals in marriage and tends to lead to maladjustment

Adjustment refers to slight change or changes in order to make suitable for a particular job or new condition. Adjustment can equally be seen as a situation in which an individual is able to cope with pleasant and unpleasant situations within his/her environment, without having psychological behaviour disorders (Mallum, 1998; Olagunju, 1998). Marital adjustment according to Filani (1984) refers to working arrangement which exists in marriage. It is an adaptation between husband and wife to a point where there is companionship, agreement on basic values, affectionate intimacy and accommodation. In other words, a well adjusted marriage involves a relationship in which the attitudes and actions of each of the couple produce an environment which is highly favourable to the proper functioning of the personality structures of the couple especially in areas of primary relations. In this case they would have come to an adjustment of interest, objectives and values, by which they are in harmony in demonstrations of affection, sharing confidences and having fewer or no serious complaints about their marriage.

Soon after marriage, the period of marital adjustment begins. This is a very trying period when the couple is faced with reality of each other’s way of life. Problems with martial adjustment have been found to be associated with issues of faulty communication management; communication barrier/breakdown.

Communication has been described as the life-wire of marriage relationships (Omojola, 1993). It is the favorite elixir for ailing human relationships. Communication management skills training in addiction to any other method of problem solving is necessary for improved marital adjustment. This is because there is no way one can adjust without maintaining or using open communications links. As long as spouses are talking with each other, observed Diekman (1982), there is the chance that they will resolve the issues between them. But once they stop talking, there is no chance at all. When they are no longer talking with each other, their attitudes are likely to become hardened leading to serious marital conflict with its attendant negative multiplier effect both on the couple, their family members and the society at large.

In view of the forgoing, training couples in communication management skills becomes a necessity for improved marital adjustment. A large part of human behaviour is concerned with sending, transmitting or receiving messages, that is communication. But virtually everywhere, Ipaye (1995) notes that there is discernible evidence of communication gaps, misconstrued intentions, misinterpreted and misunderstood messages, inappropriately transmitted and poorly received messages. If there is a solution for the problems in a marital relationship, it is communication that is sincere, open and sympathetic. Only communication can lead couples to communion and union. Because of the layers of meanings, the message sent in communication is not always the message received. To pick up the right meaning, your partner must vibrate with you on a feeling level. Thus the need for a communication management skills training which has been described by Dimbleby and Burton (1995) as an ability to use means of communication effectively with regard to the needs of those involved. Ridley, Avery, Harrell, Leslie and Dent (1981) further asserted that communication management skills training deals with how to teach people to understand one another and to be understood by others. Communication management skills training are about practical ways of enhancing communication between spouses. Its strategies as identified by Filani (1984); Bornstein and Bornstein (1985); Breen (1989); James (1989)  and Sotonade (1997) are instruction; modelling; shaping; behaviour rehearsal; positive reinforcement; humorous statements; feedback/coaching and homework assignment. These strategies and many other communication management skills were incorporated into the treatment package of the present study.

Communication management skills training as marriage enrichment programme has been found to be effective in improving marital adjustment. Breen (1989) examined the effects of Mckeon communication skills workshop on dyadic adjustment in marital relationships. A pre and post test evaluation was conducted on the treatment and control groups. The treatment group demonstrated significant gain in dyadic adjustment. James (1989) also investigated the Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy plus a Communication Skills Training Component (EFT + CTC), compared to a wait-list control group. Both treatments achieved superior gains at post test compared to the wait-list control group.

The Breen (1989) and James (1998) studies are foreign-based. The need for a replication of such studies for Nigerian couples formed the basis for the present study which seeks to find out whether there will be any significant difference in the marital adjustment of couples exposed to communication management skills training and those in the control group.

Methodology

            This is an experimental research study involving the manipulation of treatment variables followed by observing the effects of this manipulation on one or more dependent variables. For the purpose of this study, the experimental variables comprised pre-test scores representing measures of couples’ marital adjustment level (using a questionnaire tagged “Married Couples’ Relationship Inventory”) before the treatment package (on Communication Management Skills Training) was administered.  The post-test scores comprised measures of Couples’ marital adjustment level after the treatment package had been administered.

Design

The study adopted a two by two (2x2) factorial design.  This consists of one treatment group (A) and control group (B) in the rows.  The columns are represented by gender (male & female).

Participants and Setting

            A total of 12 couples (24 respondents) participated in the study.  The participants were drawn from places of worship and within the Community. The couples came voluntarily as a response to advertisement to join the group. The first meeting with the intended participants took place at Kwara State Multi-Purpose Hall, Fate, Ilorin. The main purpose of the meeting was three fold:

i)                    to administer the Married Couples’ Relationship Inventory (MCRI) in order to ascertain couples’ marital adjustment level;

ii)                   to inform the selected couples with the plan and objective of the Marriage Enrichment Programme and

iii)                 to ask for volunteers.

Twelve (12) couples among the 15 identified, volunteered to participate in the programme.  They also signed Esere’s (2000) Couples’ Consent Form (CCF) to further show their commitment to participate in the programme.  The mean age of the participants was 30.40 years while the age range was between 28 and 45 years.  The couples (who were all literate) were randomly assigned to two groups (i.e. 6 couples in each group) to conform to the “ideal” number of participants of a counselling group of maximum of 12 as suggested by Borg and Gall (1980).

Instrument

            The main research instrument used for data collection was Esere’s (2000) “Married Couples’ Relationship Inventory” (MCRI). The inventory consists of 3 sub-scales, each measuring specific areas of problems among spouses. It contains 30 items based on the rating of 4, 3, 2 1 with a test retest reliability of 0.81.  For the 30 items, the highest possible score a respondent could get was 120 (4x30) while the lowest score was 30 (1x3).  For the purpose of this study, the higher the total score, the higher the level of marital adjustment and the more successful the spouse is in his/her marital relationship.  The lower the total score, the lower the level of marital adjustment and satisfaction.

Research Procedure

The couples that received the treatment were those in the experimental group A.  The group was exposed to marriage enrichment programme tagged “Communication Management Skills Training”, which entailed acquiring psychological information about marital relationships and exposing the participants to communication management processes.

The treatment programme lasted for eight weeks. It was executed through series of lectures, focus group discussions, hypothetical case study analysis; simulations, role-play; couples’ corner activities and take home assignments.  The Communication Management Skills Training adopted a participatory approach in such a way that assignments were related to the subsequent lectures. The lectures were arranged in such a way that one lecture built on the next.  The opening remark oriented the participants to the entire programme.The participants were trained on such topics as: i) purpose of communication management training; ii) communication management strategies; ii) obstacles to effective communication; iii) guidelines for building/maintaining good communication links and iv) principles of marital relationship. The control group was not exposed to any treatment but they were given lessons on negotiation skills after the study had been concluded. However, participants in the control group were involved in the pre-treatment meetings, assignment into groups and response to the pre-test questionnaire.

Data Analysis

            The data obtained were subjected to a two way fixed Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) to determine the relative effectiveness of the independent variable (Communication Management Skills Training) on the dependent variable (improved marital adjustment level). ANCOVA is a form of analysis of variance that tests the significance of the difference between means of final experimental data taking into consideration the correlation between the dependent variable and one or more covariance by adjusting initial mean differences in the experimental groups.

Results

            In this section, the results of the test of the only hypothesis for this study are presented.  The hypothesis states that there is no statistically significant difference in the marital adjustment level of respondents exposed to treatment and those in the control.  The results of the analysis of data are presented in Tables 1 and 2.

 

 

 

 

Table 1: Unadjusted X means and Adjusted Y means showing the effect of Communication Management Skills Training on couples marital adjustment level by rows (experimental levels and columns (gender levels)

                                                                            

Experimental Levels

Male

Female

 

N

X – X        Y – X

N

X – X           Y – X

CMST (A)

12

40.01         98.20

12

39. 80           97.611

Control (B)

12

41.05         42.10  

12

40.10            41.11

Table 1 shows the unadjusted and adjusted means of the Communication Management Skills Training group and the control group.  Significant differences can be observed between the x-means and the y – means of the treatment group while no such differences are recorded for the control group.  From this observation of pre-test and post-test means, it can be deduced that the Communication Management Skills Training (CMST) package had a substantial impact in improving the couples’ marital adjustment.  The analysis of variance that follows succinctly highlights the level of significant difference between the experimental groups (A & B) in terms of marital adjustment.

Table 2: Summary results of ANCOVA for adjusted (y - means) on couples’ marital adjustment based on rows (experimental conditions) and columns (gender)

Source of Variation

SS

DF

MS

F

 

Bows

      1210.22

1

1210.22

    134.42

0.01

Columns

            3.42

1

 3.42

         .30

  NS

Interaction

            4.81

1

 4.81

        .54

  NS

Within

14241.44

20

712.07

 

 

Table 2 shows that there is a significant difference in the marital adjustment of couples treated with Communication Management Skills Training and those without treatment. The couples in the treatment group adjusted better than those in the control group.  Based on this finding the hypothesis is not upheld.

To further determine the efficacy of the treatment programme, a cell by cell t-test analysis (using Standard Error computed from the Least Mean Square was conducted. The results are as presented in Tables 3 and 4.

 Table 3: Table of rows and columns of adjusted Y-X means compared

Rows

                                                 Columns

Male                                                                                Female

CMST Group

98.20 (a)                                                                      97.61 (c)

Control Group

42.10 (b)                                                                     41.11 (d)

Table 4: Distribution showing comparison of rows and columns adjusted Y-Xs, pooled S.E computed from Least Mean Square (LMS) and t-values

 

Cells

N

Df

LMS

Pooled S.E.

t-Values

P

a vs b

12

10

3.21

0.57

4.22

0.001

a vs c

12

10

3.21

0.52

0.51

NS

a vs d

12

10

3.21

0.52

8.01

0.001

b vs c

12

10

3.21

0.57

5.30

0.001

b vs d

12

10

3.21

0.57

0.92

NS

c vs d

12

10

3.21

0.57

7.66

0.001

Table 3 further shows that significant differences existed between the treatment group and the control group. The comparison of the cells confirms the results as the hypothesis was rejected in 4 out of the 6 cells.  The only area where no significant difference was recorded was between male and female subjects exposed to the same experimental condition.

Discussion

The study has established the effectiveness of Communication Management skills Training in improving marital adjustment of couples. Participants in the intervention condition demonstrated their superiority over the control participants on measure of marital adjustment (using Married Couples’ Relationship Inventory). This finding thus confirmed the works of Filani (1984); Bornstein and Bornstein (1985) Breen (1989) and James (1989) that marital adjustment of couples could be improved.

            The possible explanation for the effectiveness of the CMST could be attributed to the contents of the treatment package which included a period of didactic teaching on how to make our marriage come alive using effective communication strategies; obstacles to effective communication and guidelines for building/maintaining good communication links were equally highlighted.  Under a conducive environment with cool music (I bless the day I found you) at the background, the couples in the treatment group were also exposed to group discussion, practical demonstration with hypothetical case studies, couples’ corner activities and a weekly take home assignment for improved marital relationships. These procedures could have gone a long way in assisting the couples adjust better in their marital relationships. The control on the other hand received no skill training. This probably explained why their performance was low when compared with those in the CMST treatment group.

            Lastly, findings of this study have also shown that the treatment have no bias against gender in terms of marital adjustment.  This may be attributed to the fact that both the husbands and their wives attended the treatment programme together.  This therefore calls for conjoint marital therapy for better results in fostering optimal marital adjustment.  The procedure for treatment and the significant improvement in the couples’ marital adjustment show that the treatment strategies could easily be taught couples. This implies that the couples could become their own “counsellors” as they imbibe the skills and techniques of communication management. As noted by Esere & Idowu (2000), this could have a positive multiplier effect on the society as couples who have gone through such training programmes would stand a better chance of teaching others with similar problems when the need arises. This becomes even more important in Nigeria as there is still a dearth of professional marriage counsellors.

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