University of Georgia Institute for Behavioral Research Center for Family Research
ProSAAM :: Program for Strong African American Marriages
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Project Overview

What is ProSAAM?

ProSAAM is a five-year intervention study designed to find the best ways for African American couples to keep their relationships strong and to reach the goals they have set for themselves. The curriculum for the educational program is based on the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP). PREP is one of the most comprehensive and well respected divorce-prevention/marriage enhancing programs in the world. PREP is a skills and principles-building curriculum designed to help partners say what they need to say, get to the heart of problems, and increase their connection with each other. The program has been in existence for over 30 years.

ProSAAM is funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, and partially supported by the Administration for Children and Families and the Fetzer Insitute.

Why is ProSAAM significant for the African American community?

African American marriages are facing even greater challenges than those of Whites. To begin, African Americans are less likely to marry. Less than half of the African American population is married; by comparison, 81% of Whites are married (Bryant & Wickrama, 2005). Among African Americans who are currently married, they consistently report being less satisfied in their marriages than White couples (Acitelli, Douvan, & Veroff, 1997; Adelmann, Chadwick, & Berger, 1996). Therefore, the presence of stable, satisfying marriages is less normative among African Americans than among Whites. In addition to marrying less often and being less satisfied in marriages, African Americans are also more likely to divorce than Whites. Whereas 17% of White marriages end within 15 years, almost half of African American marriages end within the same time frame (Bryant & Wickrama, 2005).

Strong marital relationships are particularly important because they influence mental, emotional, and physical health outcomes, as well as outcomes for children. Nonetheless, satisfying, stable marital relationships are elusive for many Americans. Given the connections to individual mental, emotional, and physical health and to children’s adjustment, it is easy to see how disparities in marital outcomes might translate into broader disparities in health and well-being (Bryant & Wickrama, 2005). Accordingly, the need for relationship enhancement is great and the need for more powerful intervention programs is readily apparent in low SES African American communities.

What makes ProSAAM unique?

ProSAAM is an exciting and unique research initiative for several reasons. First, the PREP curriculum shortened from a 15 weeks program to a course that meets on three mornings, in hopes of appealing to couples who often times must balance work and family. Second, by including material and activities that recognize how institutional and implicit racism affects and works against the success of African American marriages, the curriculum has been adapted to an African American audience. Third, we recognize that prayer is part of the cultural tradition of many diverse groups and is widely understood to be an important avenue for personal spiritual growth and development. Therefore, by providing skill-based training and encouraging prayer for one’s partner, we believe that praying for the well being of one’s partner can engender feelings of closeness to the partner at the same time that it anchors one’s relationship in a religious framework. In this respect, regularly praying for one's partner tostrengthen marital relationships and increase individual resilience. Lastly, in collaboration with prayer providers in Rockford, Illinois, we will determine if couples’ marital relationships improve when others pray for them by name only.

The purpose of ProSAAM is to test whether or not the educational program works. We’ll do this by comparing three groups of couples – a control group, a skill-based intervention group, and an intercessory prayer plus skill-based intervention group. The control group will receive a book. By comparison, couples enrolled in the skill-based intervention groups will be exposed to the traditional PREP curriculum. Couples selected to participate in the intercessory prayer plus skill-based intervention group will also be exposed to the skill-based curriculum and asked to prayer for their partners. The program is structured this way to allow us to find out if adding components increases the ability of the ProSAAM program increases its effectiveness.

Family scientists across the country are eager to see if having couples involved in this type of relationship enhancement program is an effective approach!

Who will be a part of ProSAAM?

Five hundred African American couples will participate in this project. The sample for this study will include an African American adult (at least 21 years of age) who has a mate (of any age or race) that is also willing to participate. Couples must be legally married and living their mates or planning to marry within the next 12 months. In addition, couples must be willing to pray and to have others for them as a couple in order to be enrolled in the study. Finally, couples must be willing to spend three Saturday sessions in an educational program.

Two hundred couples will be assigned to the skill-based intervention and intercessory prayer plus skill-based intervention sessions. One hundred couples will be designated as participants in the control group.

What will the ProSAAM participants do?

In-home Interviews: The couple will be asked to complete four in-home interviews throughout the study. During these interviews, two field interviewers will drive to the target adult’s home and collect information using laptop computers. The interviews will focus on health and well-being, dating routines, marital relationship quality, and marital interaction. Couples will also be asked to discuss a task in front a video camera. Their interactions will be recorded and treated as data.

The first interview will be part of what we call the pre-test assessment. The second interview (post-test) will be held two weeks after the couples have attended the ProSAAM program. The couples will be interviewed again six-months and twelve-months later.

ProSAAM educational program: 400 couples will participate in an educational program that meets three Saturday mornings in which they will learn how to strengthen their relationship and improve their ability to handle challenges that face all couples.

What can couples expect if they decide to participate?
Each couple will receive $50.00 for each of the first and second interviews and $100.00 for each of the third and fourth interviews (per couple).

How will couples benefit?
Couples will learn how to handle or prevent problems in their relationships. They will also learn how to support and care for each other in ways that make their relationships better. Couples will also have an opportunity to meet couples that are equally committed to their marriages, if selected for the educational programs. Finally, couples will discuss issues that are important to them as African Americans.

What counties are the couples from?
Couples who participate in ProSAAM reside in metropolitan Atlanta or northeast Georgia. Couples that reside near these counties in Georgia are also welcome to participate.

What will happen with the information that the couple provides?
The information provided by each individual couple is kept very confidential. After all the couples have been interviewed, all of the information is grouped together and analyses are conducted for the whole sample. Ultimately, the information from this study about couples will be used to inform service agencies, policy makers, and other marriage scholars and those interested in relationship enhancement programs that are uniquely designed for the African American community.