What works in Relationship Education?

Lessons from Academics and Service Deliverers in the United States and Europe


Chapter descriptions


From the editors




Relationship education

Pre-relationship Education

Cohabitation and relationship education

Singles and other cultures

Challenges facing educators


Early interventions

Coping with stress

Screening distressed couples

Case study "The Marriage Course"


United States




chapter Downloads


From the editors




Stanley & Rhoades

Rhoades & Stanley


Markman et al




Widmer & Bodenmann

Snyder et al

Lee & Lee






Referencing these chapters

Chapter 9

Screening for Marital Distress


As Doug Snyder and colleagues point out in “Screening for Marital Distress”, marital satisfaction is the strongest single predictor of life satisfaction. Correspondingly, relationship distress has a unique influence on other emotional and behavioural indicators. Happier couples have happier lives. Distressed couples have more problems in their lives.

Historically, assessments of marital or relationship quality have tended to focus on continuous measures or sliding scales – such as “satisfaction”, “adjustment”, “discord” or “distress”. However in assigning couples into distinct categories, such as “distressed” and “nondistressed”, a fairly arbitrary dividing line or cut-score must be set.

Snyder’s paper provides evidence that couple distress is more than just a sliding scale. At some key tipping point, distress becomes a taxon, a distinct category of its own that differs both qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

For researchers, the finding that distress is taxonic opens the way for greater clarity in use of cut-scores to identify distressed couples. For clinicians, the realisation that some couples have crossed some tipping point of distress may influence the nature of intervention offered.

Snyder and colleagues provide a simple 10-item questionnaire. Different users can apply different cut-scores. A lower cut-score of 3 or more can be applied in clinical settings where the requirement is for sensitivity and referral of individuals. A higher cut-score of 5 or more can be applied in research settings where the requirement is for specificity and categorisation of groups. The emergence of a taxonic measure with good reliability and validity also offers interesting opportunities for cross-cultural comparisons.

Although screening may be unnecessary for most preventive programmes, relationship educators working in remedial or treatment settings will find this a helpful tool for providing an appropriate level of referral and subsequent intervention.