Computer Program Helps College Couples Build Stronger Relationships

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From Florida State University News
By Libby Fairhurst

 

Like the proverbial apple a day, a pair of computer-based programs developed by Florida State University researchers may help young adults keep relationship trouble away.
Frank Fincham

College students in committed romantic relationships reported significantly reduced relationship dysfunction as well as depression and anxiety symptoms after participating in either of the two computer-based interventions, says a study by the FSU Family Institute.

Those positive findings among 91 young adults—each a partner in a relationship that had lasted four months or more—are described in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (May 2007) in a paper co-authored by FSU Professor and Family Institute Director Frank Fincham and FSU psychology doctoral student Scott R. Braithwaite.

The results suggest that the two computer-based programs tested in the FSU study—a "relationship-focused preventive intervention" called ePREP and a "depression- and anxiety-focused preventive intervention" known as CBASP—offer not only effective but also economical, flexible and accessible ways to improve an important aspect of students' lives.

"For college students, interventions such as ePREP can lay the foundation for later healthy marriage and thus benefit the next generation," Fincham said. A renowned family scientist, psychologist and expert on the dynamics of conflict and forgiveness in personal relationships, he is the Eminent Scholar in FSU's department of family and child sciences, with which the multidisciplinary Family Institute is affiliated.

Tango’s Take

Machines that can help with feelings? Let’s just hope that these machines don’t develop feelings of their own and realize how much we take them for granted. This is a very interesting concept. The text of the article wanders around a bit but the gist is that people take a quiz with text and images about their feelings. Each quiz is scored and then the participants take an hour-long course on improving relationships (or battling depression). They then print the slides to study on their own. Once a week, for the next seven weeks they are emailed a reminder to complete a survey gauging their feelings. At the end of the eight-week program they take the same initial questionnaire. Though they don’t publish the statistics, the article mentions a marked improvement in relationship contentedness and a drop in depression and anxiety. We’re all in favor of any tool that can improve relationships or alleviate depression. Is it possible that the test subjects may have been compelled to answer more positively? Is it also possible that college students are incredibly impressionable and willing to believe most fervently in the last thing told to them? Let’s hope that the researchers at FSU are onto something the Department of Family and Child Sciences has had to take a backseat to the Film School and football team for way too long.

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