Perceptions of Safety and Violence among Relationship Education Participants: A Grounded Theory Study



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Marriage and relationship education (MRE) has become a focus of national attention. With the passage of federal legislation appropriating money to promote MRE among low-income and minority populations, various states have begun to offer MRE workshops. However, as low-income populations are at increased risk for intimate partner violence (IPV), some are concerned that government endorsement of MRE will encourage participants (particularly women) to stay in or enter into unsafe and violent relationships. Research examining the relationship between MRE participation and IPV is in its infancy. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods and data collected from a federally-funded MRE program, this study examined the effect of participating in an MRE on an individual’s relationship as it relates to perceptions of safety and violence. A theory and model were developed which include 5 categories: group process, context, awareness, creating a safe environment, and relationship unity. Qualitative results indicate that participants move through a process from context to relationship unity, via the group process, awareness, and creating a safe environment. Quantitative results show an increase in perceptions of safety for the total SAFE scale and all three subscales (verbal/psychological, control, and physical) for the full sample. Similar results were found when analyses were completed by gender. Females, however, reported no significant difference between pre- and post-test for the physical subscale. A discussion of the findings and the implications thereof, as well as possible directions for future research, is provided.