Online Marriage Education Program Helps New Parents

Expectant couples experience emotional highs and lows. The anticipation of becoming parents can cause excitement and joy. It can also lead people to worry about their new responsibilities. Financial stress and emotional strain can create conflict in marriages as couples face the challenge of entering into parenthood. After the birth of the child, new parents experience an overwhelming surge of emotions. The thrill of finally meeting the child, combined with the anxiety of caring for the newborn, lack of sleep, and tattered nerves, can cause tension between parents. Marriage and relationship education (MRE) programs focus on addressing all these issues in couples. New and expectant parents can learn new coping strategies and develop the tools necessary to manage the ups and downs of becoming parents. MRE helps these parents learn how to communicate in healthy ways amidst the stress of this significant life transition.

But very few new parents have the time to attend MRE classes. Therefore, Christina J. Kalinka of the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Colorado in Denver led a study to determine whether internet MRE would be a viable option for new and expectant parents. Because the added stress of parenthood has been shown to increase conflict, aggression, and divorce among married couples, finding an acceptable and effective tool for new parents is vital. Kalinka assessed 79 expectant parents after they completed an 8-week internet MRE or a control course. She found that the MRE internet participants were better able to handle conflicts than the control group. In addition, the MRE internet parents reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction than the control parents. Kalinka believes that the results demonstrate the usefulness and appropriateness of internet interventions for this segment of the population. With the demands on new parents’ time, more individuals rely on the internet because of its portability and 24-hour-a-day accessibility. Kalinka added, “This study provides a hopeful chord in the search for a way to make primary prevention MRE available to all interested individuals and couples.”

Kalinka, C. J., Fincham, F. D., Hirsch, A. H. (2012). A randomized clinical trial of online-biblio relationship education for expectant couples. Journal of Family Psychology 26.1, 159-164.

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  • Angela


    April 7th, 2012 at 4:39 AM

    What a great idea! I know that when my husband and I were expecting our first child, there were a lot of questions that we had about how our relationship was going to change, and those questions are not talked about in the birthing classes. We were keen enough to know that something was going to have to change but we did not necessarily know how to navigate that and still remain united together as parents. A class like this would have been so helpful for us I think, because it sounds like it would teach you not only useful parenting skills but also how to remain true to each other.

  • Tracy DEB

    Tracy DEB

    April 7th, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    So how do we get the word out that this kind of program is now available? I know that there are a lot of couples who would want to take advantage of something like this if they knoew it was out there and it was convenient and affordable.

  • Winnie


    April 9th, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    When you give couples resources that they can use when times get hard them they will better have the ability to work through those hard times and be able to deal with stress. This will most definitely make them better partners and better parents. The more education the couple has they are going to feel more comfortable and confident handling the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood too.

  • arnold


    April 9th, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    there were so many things that parents would give advice on to their children when they became new parents themselves but now with ever increasing distances from family members that is not exactly a supporting hand given out with expert knowledge is not just a good thing but a big boon indeed,especially because it can also be conducted online thereby relieving the new parents of all the stress in their jam-packed schedule.

  • macy james

    macy james

    April 9th, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    Give me some tips to use when my husband and I get into it over the everyday stupid things that are brought on with the added stress of our new baby, and I am there! There are so many times when it feels like little molehills are getting made into mountains and neither of us know how to react without getting angry. And I know a lot of the time it is just about having very little time for us anymore, sleep deprivation and just general tiredness, but there has to be something more to this life after kids than arguing all of the time.

  • Valerie R

    Valerie R

    April 10th, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    Maybe more ob/gyns should offer classes like this. That might give even more moms and dads access to the information if they were given ways to find it through their doctors.

  • CJ Kalinka

    CJ Kalinka

    April 15th, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Hey everyone! CJ Kalinka here, one of the authors on the study you just read about. I really appreciate the comments and feedback… keep em’ coming!

    Angela- I think that you what you mentioned rings true for many new parents; the relationship isn’t just “you and me” anymore, but “you me and baby”. The intervention that was used in the study was from The Power of Two.

    Tracy DEB- Designing and creating an effective program is half the battle… the other half is finding a way to get the word out! We’d love for you to take look at the intervention and see if it’s something that you or others can use!

    Winnie- What you mentioned is spot on. Relationship education is something that we could all brush up on :) We tend to all have our own habits so it’s helpful to learn new techniques to solve problems, handle heated emotions, and increase general positive feelings between you and your partner.

    Arnold- It does feel like parents get stretched pretty thin don’t they? Babysitters, appointments, kiddo play groups… such a jam-packed schedule does leave little time to reconnect with your partner outside of the child, so having an online format might be a great alternative to traditional marriage and relationship therapy. Face-to-face, traditional therapy is here to stay; however, having an online interface might reach a handful of people that are looking to get in a few tips and tricks from the comfort of their own home.

    macy james- Ah Macy… I think that you are speaking right into the hearts of many new parents and readers here. When stress levels increase with added demands on our time, the molehills certainly do feel like molehills. We know from previous that after following couples over the first 8 years of marriage that there was a sudden deterioration in positive and negative aspects of relationship functioning after having a babe (Doss, Rhoades, Stanley, & Markmen, 2009). Therefore we believe (along with many other relationship researchers) that taking some time to refocus on how your relationship has changed and get some “new tools” for your relationship backpack can only help. It’s never too late to learn how to reconnect with someone you fell in love with.

    Valerie R- I completely agree! Opening up an opportunity for people to receive relationship attention such as Power of Two from their OB/GYN office would be a real dream come true- even if it was just passing along the resource. We all have had to sit at a doctor’s office and wait around until we’re called, and then continue to wait once we’re in the room…. why not learn something educational that will benefit our relationship while we wait? Great idea!

  • Bento Leal

    Bento Leal

    April 16th, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    What internet MRE program was studied?

  • kelvinfuhrman


    April 18th, 2012 at 4:10 AM

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