Mechanisms of improvements and maintenance in online relationship programs for distressed low-income couples.

Yunying Le, McKenzie K. Roddy, S. Gabe Hatch, Brian D. Doss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Web-based relationship interventions have been shown to improve relationship functioning for low-income couples, with gains maintained up through 12 months (Doss et al., 2020; Roddy et al., 2020). However, little is known about mechanisms of improvements and maintenance for these programs. Method: A sample of 742 low-income couples (Mage = 33; 55% non-Hispanic White; 52% married; Mdn annual household income = $27,000) were randomly assigned to the OurRelationship (OR) program, the ePREP program, or a waitlist control group. Couples were repeatedly assessed over 6 months on two relationship outcomes (satisfaction and breakup potential) and five relationship mechanisms (positive and negative communication, relationship problem intensity and confidence, and emotional support) with self-report measures. Results: Intervention couples, compared with the control couples, experienced significantly greater improvements in all mechanisms by the end of the program (Mean |d| = 0.58). Those with greater improvements in mechanisms also reported greater improvements in both relationship outcomes. From post- to 4-months follow-up, only prepost improvements in negative communication significantly predicted maintenance of gains in satisfaction. In contrast, prepost improvements in all mechanisms significantly predicted maintenance of reductions in breakup potential, with the largest effect via improvements in emotional support. Conclusions: These results indicate that both programs improve targeted mechanisms during the intervention period and support the role of these constructs as mechanisms of improvements in broader relationship functioning. Moreover, findings on mechanisms of maintenance highlighted the importance of including an emphasis on communication and emotional support to better maintain program gains. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved) <strong xmlns:lang="en">What is the public health significance of this article?—Understanding how relationship interventions work is critical for further revising them and improving their effectiveness. The current study provides empirical support for five theoretically important mechanisms of improvements in relationship interventions for low-income couples and identifies two mechanisms that are critical in maintaining their gains following the program. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1091-1104
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of consulting and clinical psychology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • couples
  • low-income
  • mechanism
  • online intervention
  • relationship education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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