Preventing Divorce for Lower-Income Couples Under Stress in the United States is the Goal for University of Miami Professor

Web-based program receives $4.9 million grant to continue assisting couples in distress and conduct 5-year research study

Dr. Brian Doss, professor with the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences Department of Psychology, is on a mission to help prevent divorce for lower-income couples in the United States, and now with a $4.9 million grant, he can extend those services to more couples experiencing relationship issues – and even couples who are not.

The web-based program, OurRelationship.com, was developed in 2009 through a grant from the National Institutes of Health to provide marriage assistance for couples with relationship problems. Dr. Doss says the new grant from the Administration for Children and Families will help reach more lower-income couples in the United States, and also assist “happy” couples who seek to enrich their relationships.  

“Lower-income couples are under a lot of stress and the divorce rates and separation rates for lower-income couples are a lot higher than for couples who are not dealing with those stressors. We feel it’s important to provide some skills and relationship preparation early on to protect currently happy couples from ever developing problems.  And, for those couples who do have difficulties, we are providing a service to help them solve those relationship problems,” said Dr. Doss. 

Dr. Doss says the new grant has both a service and research component. He explains: “Part of the mission is to provide services and improve the relationships of low-income couples across the United States.  The other purpose of it is to develop the research base by conducting a research study. As part of this grant, we are doing a randomized control trial to test the question of how much staff contact and support they need going through the program.”

Dr. Doss says couples normally find the web program when they search online using keywords such as, ‘free marriage counseling.’

“These couples want to improve their relationship and recognize they need help, but since they are also using the word ‘free’ in their search there is obviously some financial constraints they are concerned about,” said Dr. Doss.

Over the course of the five-year study, Dr. Doss estimates about 5,000 people will interact and use with the program; the study will also research the program’s successes and failures.

Currently, approximately 15 to 20 couples a week use the existing version of the online program to help deal with relationship issues. The updated version of the web-based program tailored to lower-income couples  – funded by the $4.9 million grant – will be available in July 2016.  

February 02, 2016