Clark prof. receives grant to provide Marriage Checkups to military

July 30, 2013
Prof. James Cordova

Prof. James Córdova

James V. Córdova, associate professor of psychology and director of Clinical Training and The Marriage Checkup Project at Clark University, has been awarded a $56,156 grant from the Department of Defense's Defense Health Program to support his project, "Disseminating the marriage checkup in Air Force primary care settings."

Professor Córdova will work with Lt. Col. Jeffrey Cigrang of the U.S. Air Force Department of Aeromedical Research (FHC), USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, Wright-Patterson AFB, to develop the Marriage Checkup for use in primary care settings through the department's well-established Behavioral Health Optimization Program (BHOP) for active duty Air Force personnel and their partners. Córdova will pilot the adapted Marriage Checkup at two separate Air Force bases and, if implementation proves feasible, apply for additional funding to run a full-scale randomized clinical trial.

Professor Córdova's book, "The Marriage Checkup: A Scientific Program for Sustaining and Strengthening Marital Health" (Jason Aronson, May 2009) is designed to help couples assess the strengths and weaknesses of their relationships and to develop strategies for strengthening their marital health.

"The overall goal of this pilot study is to develop a brief intervention for enhancing marital resiliency tailored to a military population that can be used by behavioral health consultants (BHCs) working in an integrated primary care clinic," Professor Córdova said. "I've been looking forward to adapting the Marriage Checkup to address the needs of military couples for some time and am very grateful for the opportunity that this grant provides to adapt this proven marital health program for the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to serving our country."

The specific aims of this proposed 15-month pilot study will be to:

  • Adapt the Marriage Checkup program for use by behavioral health consultants in the fast-paced, time-constrained environment of primary care;
  • Tailor the content of the intervention to address the unique stressors experienced by military couples;
  • Conduct a program evaluation of the intervention at several integrated primary care clinics, obtaining feedback on usability, helpfulness, reach, and recommendations for improvement from end-users (BHCs and military couples); and
  • Revise the intervention based on pilot study findings for a more rigorous evaluation in a future controlled trial.

Expanding efforts to strengthen the resiliency of Airmen and their families is a key priority for senior Air Force leaders, who recognize that most military service members are married, including 71 percent of military officers and 52 percent of enlisted members, and that unmarried service members enter marriage at a higher rate than their civilian counterparts. An Airman's military service has been characterized as a service shared by marriage and family, particularly in the context of an expeditionary Air Force culture and frequent deployments in support of current operations.

Although many Airmen and their partners demonstrate remarkable resilience in response to the challenges of military service, others show evidence of distress. The risk of marital dissolution increased significantly with the total number of days that Airmen were deployed. Beyond the strains of deployment, other unique military lifestyles can be particularly hard on marriage and family relationships. In addition, active duty service women experience divorce rates twice as high as their male military counterparts, and also higher than civilian men and women.

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a small, liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark's pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark's faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to complex challenges in the natural sciences, psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University's motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.