The Norwegian state has been arguably more proactive in the field of preventive relationship education than any other European country. Guro Hansen Helskog asks whether the upward trend in marriages and downward trend in divorces over the last few years may be the result of this effort.
Government support and funding for relationship education programmes began in 1994. The growing popularity and political significance of these courses was reflected when budget cuts threatened to end funding in 2006 and the programme was notably reinstated.
Although a number of different programmes have emerged, the two most successful have been the Norwegian variant of PREP for young couples and a one day relationship course for new parents. Two other programmes on post-separation parenting and relationship education for ethnic minorities have also shown promise.
As the most widely used relationship programme, Norwegian PREP is aimed at couples establishing a serious relationship – because almost all couples getting married have previously cohabited. Since inception in 1999, some 1,300 workshop leaders have been trained and over 9,000 couples have attended workshops.
More recently the Norwegian government established a one day relationship programme for all new parents entitled “Living Together Nicely”. In 2007, over 2,000 couples attended one of 335 courses offered in health and social centres.