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Annu Rev Psychol. 1999;50:165-90.

Interventions for couples.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles 90095, USA.


A substantial body of empirical research has documented both the promise and the shortcomings of psychological interventions for preventing or ameliorating marital distress. Couple therapy reduces relationship distress and may affect individual psychopathology, such as depression. However, some couples are unresponsive and others improve but relapse later. Interventions to prevent marital distress usually produce short-term changes in behavior and relationship satisfaction, but little evidence exists demonstrating a longer-term prevention effect. Furthermore, these interventions have yet to be examined on a diverse population of couples or with a diverse set of outcome criteria (e.g. effects on children). Concern about the negative impact of marital discord and divorce will continue to provide the impetus for research on more effective means of intervening with couples. Future research could benefit from a focus on a more diverse population of couples, treatment in natural settings, the development of more powerful interventions, and the examination of those interventions over longer periods of time and with more comprehensive outcome measures.

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