Multicultural Lessons Learned From African-American Marriage Focus Groups

Bride and groom with wedding cake The Program for Strong African American Marriages (ProSAAM) is designed to enrich African American marriages. This effort is critical to the success of culturally diverse families who tend to be at high risk for negative outcomes such as violence, divorce, and substance misuse. However, there are many barriers that prohibit the active involvement of African Americans in these types of programs. This is especially true for men who are taught to associate strength with self-reliance. Receiving help for marital issues may be seen as a sign of weakness and might prevent many men from becoming involved in this type of counseling. As a result of the challenges to enrollment, it has been difficult to enlist willing African American men into ProSAAM.

In order to boost enrollment, Tera R. Hurt of The William A. And Barbara R. Owens Institute for Behavioral Research at the University of Georgia recently led two focus groups designed to identify the reasons for men’s hesitation. Hurt and her colleagues invited 12 African American men to provide feedback as to their feelings about the marriage enrichment program. The men ranged in age from 26 to 50 and were in either committed relationships or marriages. Hurt enlisted two African American facilitators and had each work with six men to discuss the reasons that prevented them from participating in the program.

The participants revealed that the structure of the program was too demanding and that they would prefer a more liberal schedule. Additionally, the men expressed a desire to have mentorship within the program. They also mentioned the significance of spiritual or religious affiliation with respect to the program and mentors. After disseminating this information, ProSAAM was redesigned to meet those needs and enrollment rose significantly. Specific changes included direct one-on-one mentorship with men of similar faiths who could provide a stable and solid example of what a responsible partner should be. Additionally, the venues were designed to be more accessible and appealing, and time was allotted for individual fellowship that was gender sensitive. This gave the men the opportunity to hear other men’s stories and allowed them to realize that their feelings and situations were not unique. Finally, Hurt noted that the men who completed the program acted as recruiters for future participants, which caused program enrollment to increase even further. In view of these results, Hurt believes the focus groups were successful at achieving their objective. She added, “This suggested that the lessons we learned from the focus groups were pertinent to the specific issue of engaging African American men in research on marriage.”

Reference:
Hurt, T. R., Beach, S. R. H., Stokes, L. A., Bush, P. L., Sheats, K. J., Robinson, S. G. (2012). Engaging African American men in empirically based marriage enrichment programs: Lessons from two focus groups on the ProSAAM project. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 18.3, 312-315.

Related articles:
Men Becoming Fathers
How Do I Know I Can Count on my Partner?
Factors Affecting Mental Health in Minority Populations

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  • kennedy

    kennedy

    August 3rd, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    “Finally, Hurt noted that the men who completed the program acted as recruiters for future participants, which caused program enrollment to increase even further.”

    This is something that is bound to have great results. Former participants turning recruiters is a sure way to success of a program.

    But that doesnt happen so easily.When you listen to prospective participants and tweak the program according to their needs and suggestions, it is going to be something that people will flock to, because they have been waiting for the features now present in the program!And the efforts of all those involved in the ProSAAM deserve applause.

  • mel

    mel

    August 5th, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    It is good to know what specific cultural groups are looking for in these sorts of studies, because what is important to one group may not be of any importance at all to others. To make any sort of headway within the groups at which you are studying you have to make the research relevant to them and must be conducted in a way that feels positive to them.

  • freddie flint

    freddie flint

    August 5th, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    often those that are most at risk go without support..its the same with the black community in general..they face various difficulties and regular help programs may not suit them very well.so a focused program exclusively for them is just great..I just hope more and more people use this program and reap its benefits in their marriage.

  • missT

    missT

    August 6th, 2012 at 4:21 AM

    If someone has a positive relationship with a therapy program such as this, then they will thenn be more likely to recommend this to familly members and friends. This is why it is so critical to get these programs to address the needs of many and to solicit the opinions of the participants. This is a great way to see what people like or dislike, and to make changes that people want to see. You may think that you have all the bases covered, but those who are benefitting should also have a little say so. If the creators and moderators listen, then they will be able to make changes that can be more encompassing and helpful to even more participants.

  • Barbara

    Barbara

    August 7th, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    That’s great and all but is it realistic to always think that just because you don’t like something about a program that that means you don’t have tp participate or try to get anything from it?

    Think about it- don’t you think that sometimes for someone in a group like this that is designed to help them that they should have to bend a little instead of always having others feel like they are the ones who have to compromise?

  • Ramona W

    Ramona W

    August 8th, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Barbara_
    I respectfully have to disagree with you.
    You make it sound like we as a group are asking for changes to be made to meet our own needs.
    Maybe that’s true. But if they are changes that actually keep men involved and willing to go to counseling, why does htis have to be perceived as being negative? Wouldn’t you want those changes to be made for you and your spouse if you neede help in regards to your relationship?

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