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Some factors associated with reconciliation decisions among couples with marital problems

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  • The purpose of the study was to investigate the nature of marital interaction that occurs at the point at which couples with problems seek assistance from an agency specifically designed to deal with marital problems. Efforts were made to learn more about the nature of the marital relationship in general, and conditions under which individuals who seek counseling arrive at a decision to reconcile or not to reconcile. Specifically, the marital interaction, as measured by an affection-companionship index (ACI), and a hostility index (HOS), of couples who were referred for, or who voluntarily requested the services of the Marriage Counselor's Office of the Domestic Relations Division of The Superior Court, County of Sacramento, was investigated. The sample consisted of 83 couples, drawn on the basis of their willingness to cooperate. The Marriage Questionnaire, developed by James L. Hawkins, PhD was used to assess marital interaction, and yielded a single score for a married couple on both affection-companionship and hostility, as reflected in the reported overt behaviors of the couple. The study focused on the ACI and HOS variables in relationship to the decision of the couple concerning their immediate future marital relationship, or their reconciliation decision. Couples were classified on the basis of these decisions and were categorized as follows: 1) decision to reconcile (R), 2) decision to refuse reconciliation (RR), and 3) reconciliation decision unknown to the Marriage Counselor's Office, which consisted of the subgroups off-calendar (OC) and petition-dismissed (PD). The possibility that other factors relating to marital status might be associated with reconciliation decisions of these couples was also investigated. The specific hypotheses tested were: 1. There is no difference among the three reconciliation decision groups, R, RR, and RU, with regard to ACI scores or to HOS scores. 2. There is a significant negative correlation between HOS and ACI within the entire sample and within each of the reconciliation decision groups. 3. There is no difference in HOS scores of court-referred couples and non-court-referred couples regardless of reconciliation decision. 4. Among couples receiving counseling there is no difference in the number who do reconcile and the number who do not reconcile within this particular sample. 5. Reconciliation decision is independent of: present ages of marriage partners, duration of marriage, incidence of children younger than ten years, incidence of separation, and duration of separation. Results indicated differences, significant at the five per cent level, in both HOS and ACI between the R group and PD group, in HOS only between the RR and PD group, and in ACI only between the R and RR groups. No differences resulted in either ACI or HOS between OC and PD, R and OC, and RR and OC. No significant relationship was found between the number of couples who reconcile and the number of couples who refuse reconciliation following counseling. A significant negative correlation (-.575) between ACI and HOS was found within the R group, and no relationship was found within any one of the RR, OC, or PD groups. The reconciliation decision of couples was found to be independent of age of the marriage partners, the duration of marriage, the incidence of children younger than ten years of age, or the duration of separation. However, reconciliation decision was found to be significantly related to incidence of separation at the .001 level of confidence. It was concluded from the results of the study that differences do exist in affection-companionship and hostility between certain reconciliation decision groups, and that for reconciled couples, at least, a significant negative relationship exists between ACI and HOS. The affection-companionship index, as measured by the Marriage Questionnaire, discriminates between reconciled couples and couples who refuse to reconcile. Marital separation is associated with the reconciliation decision of these couples. The study points up the need for further research.
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