Evaluating the effectiveness of premarital prevention programs: A meta-analytic review of outcome research

Jason S. Carroll, William J. Doherty

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

165 Scopus citations


We present a comprehensive, meta-analytic review and critical evaluation of outcome research pertaining to the effectiveness of premarital prevention programs. Results revealed that the mean effect size for premarital programs was .80, which means that the average person who participated in a premarital prevention program was significantly better off afterwards than 79% of people who did not participate. Stated differently, the average participant in a premarital program tends to experience about a 30% increase in measures of outcome success. Our findings suggest that premarital prevention programs are generally effective in producing immediate and short-term gains in interpersonal skills and overall relationship quality and that these improvements are significantly better than nonintervention couples in these areas. However, because of a lack of extended follow-up research, conclusions about long-term effectiveness remain elusive. We propose implications for future research, education, and policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-118
Number of pages14
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003



  • Counseling
  • Outcome research
  • Premarital
  • Prevention
  • Relationships

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