5,000 2,500

Topic Description



Background to the Study

Marriage can be an exciting, rewarding and beautiful adventure if properly managed.  God designed the opposite sexes to complement each other.  He united man and woman in marriage so that they might give to each other what each lacks (Uwe, 2006).  Marriage can be viewed as the coming together of man and woman who have agreed as husband and wife, to plan and set up their own family (Arowolo, 2014), Ogunsanmi (2005) sees marriage as an agreement between a man and a woman who take certain vows to love and cherish and in health, for better and for worse. Marriage from the researcher’s point of view, is the mutual agreement of a man and a woman to live together as husband and wife, to live a life of vocation of love and sharing, in richer and in poorer and to raise children.  Marriage is the beginning of family life; therefore, if marriage for a couple begins on a stable note and is sustained over time, the foundation for a stable marriage life may have been laid.

Marital stability according to Okorodudu (2010) is the availability of certain ingredients of success in order that the growth of personal fulfillment of members can be assured in the family.  He further said that marital stability involves the process whereby couples are engaged in mental, sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, social and educational adjustment to themselves.  George (2002) stated that the family’s success is often measured in terms of her member’s happiness and satisfaction. Hence, where there is happiness and contentment expressed by family members, such a family could be said to be stable. From the researcher’s point of view, marital stability can be defined as a stable or steady marriage. The marriage in which the rate of mutually exchanged benefits is high, while the rate of mutually exchanged punishment  is low.  According to Onwuasoanya and Okeke (2009), family stability is an on-going process.  It is a life long affair, a state that family members have to work towards maintaining through making relevant modifications as the need arise.

Marital instability on the other and, is the marriage existing with the presence of thorny, divisive issues capable of leading to separation.  A marriage which is marked by serious and perhaps violent quarrels or conflicts can be regarded as being unstable.  In other words, conflicts in marriage renders it unstable.  The concept of marital instability in this study is limited to the cases of separation and divorce among couples.  According to O’Rourke and Cappeliez (2003), unstable family is that where there is dishonesty, lack of love, lack of positive communication, lack of care and proper management, where there is  chaos, pride, irrational thinking and so on.  When marriage starts with delusion, shallow understanding of the challenges of marital life, disrespect for each other and inability of couples to express their feelings to their partners, negative perception and selfish tendencies, the scenario of marital negativism plays out, the consequence is usually marital instability.

In my locality a woman was thrown out of her matrimonial home by the husband, who subsequently filed a divorce against her.  The said woman who is responsible for the feeding of her family, complained after six months that her salary could no longer carry the sister in-law who came to stay in her father’s house with the husband, six children and a house help, due to their inability to meet up with their house rent. They are in court till date.  My relative was at conflict with the husband for many years, due to the fact that the husband forced her to run a joint account with him and was banned from withdrawing from the account no matter the need or face the consequence.  She was sent home the day she summond up courage to express her feelings to the husband.

An interview with the Registrar Social Welfare Awka, Anambra State by the researcher on the 19th of April, 2012, indicated that most of the unresolved cases which stemmed from financial issues in the past four years were as a result of the inability of the couples to freely express their thoughts and feelings, again some couples feel they are being taken advantage of but are afraid to say “no” to that.  Also a visit to the state high court Awka revealed that the records of divorce cases are on the increase on yearly basis. Ojeme (2007) remarked that there are too many problems confronting marriages and families, which are health-related, sex-related, finance-related and children-related.

According to Ojeme (2014) the issue of finance is another problem that could tear families if they are unable to handle financial issues well. When family instability sets in, there is need for change.  Change is particularly important when families are under stress and need to adapt in a crisis (Onwuasoanya & Okeke, 2009).  Counselling therefore plays important role to such couples in helping them identify their problems and in resolving them to a logical conclusion.

Counselling is the act of providing psychological support, appropriate education and coping skills to a person affected by any adverse event (Nelson-Jones, 2012).  According to Pever (2009) counselling is a process through which individuals are helped to improve their understanding of themselves and their relationship with others, as well as to greater depth in understanding the conditions within which they live.  Counselling in the context of this study, is the process of providing couples experiencing problems with skills to assist them identify and resolve their problems, this can be done individually or in a group.

Marriage counselling therefore is the counselling practice geared towards helping couples to salvage their crumbling marriages, by helping them discover the toxins in their unions and learn those missing interpersonal skills they need, to enrich and improve the emotional situation in their marriage (Nwoye, 1991).  It can be seen in this context as a process in which a specialist in counselling assists individuals, couples or families in resolving problems during courtship and marriage.

Several counselling techniques could be employed in assisting couples experiencing marital instability such as equilibrium intervention, cognitive restructuring, psychological transition, mediation, focus group counselling, assertiveness training and so on.  But for the purpose of this study focus group counselling and assertiveness training were used to assist couples to ascertain their effect on marital instability of couples.

Focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitude towards an idea, concept or product.  Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members (Kaufman, 2003).  According to Kaufman, the term focus group was coined by a psychologist and marketing expert, Ernert Ditchter.  Focus group is an interview conducted by a trained moderator among small group of respondents.  The interview is conducted in an unstructured and natural way, where respondents are free to give views from any aspect (Lindolf & Taylor, 2002).

Focus group discussion produces data and insight that would be less assessable without interaction found in a group setting, listening to others’ experience stimulate memories, ideas and experiences in participants.  This is also known as the group effect, where group members engage in “a kind of chaining or cascading effect, talk links to or tumbled out of the topics and expression proceeding it”.

Focus group counselling which is one of the techniques that can be used to assist couples experiencing conflict in their marriages is a derivative technique of the behavioural research tool categorized as focus group discussion. Like focus group discussion therefore, focus group counselling entails the stimulation of verbal exchanges and interactions between lead discussant and others with varied experiences on a specific thematic area (Kolo, 2009).  Focus group counselling explicitly uses group interaction as part of the method.  This means that instead of the researcher asking each person to respond to questions in turn, people are encouraged to talk to one another asking questions, exchanging anecdotes and commenting on each other’s experiences and point of view.  The method is particularly useful for exploring people’s knowledge and experiences and can be used to examine not only what people think, but how they think and why they think that way (Kitsinger, 1995).  This implies that couples who are experiencing marital conflicts can be assisted to regain their marital stability through focus group counselling as it will help them to understand themselves better.  Within the context of this study, focus groups are structured, guided discussions, gathering of data for scientific purposes.  A specially trained moderator facilitates the discussion through a process of “guided interaction” within a controlled environment. The moderator or other participants can explore ideas generated by the group. The moderator can draw out motivations, feelings and values behind verbalizations through skillful probing and restating responses. Participants stimulate each other in an exchange of ideas that may not emerge in individual interview or surveys.  The moderator can link ideas for further explorations.  Group interaction generates insights that might not occur without the cross fertilization of ideas that occur in a well moderated focus group.  Focus groups afford depth and insight into the research questions and help contextualize data (Krueger and Casey, 2000).  The researcher therefore examined the extent focus group counselling would go in assisting couples in resolving marital issues.

Following the point of view of Hawkins (2009), the most important thing in marriage is effective communication, sometimes people do not say what they intended to say, other times people do not say what they feel because they know that their mate will take it the wrong way, as a result, communication becomes strained.  Ineffective communication leads to frustration and is detrimental to marriage as it can result to separation and divorce.  It is therefore pertinent that couples develop skills of assertive communication.

Assertive communication involves respect for the boundaries of oneself and others.  It also presumes an interest in the fulfillment of needs and wants through cooperation.  According to William (2008) communication emphasizes expressing feeling forthrightly but in a way that will not spiral into aggression.  If others’ actions threaten one’s boundaries, one communicates this to prevent escalation.  However, aggressive communication judges, threatens, breaks confidence and violates others boundaries.  At the opposite end of the dialectic is passive communication, victims may passively permit others to violet their boundaries.  At a later time, they may come back and attack with a sense of impurity or righteous indignation (William, 2008).  Assertive communication attempts to transcend these extremes by appealing to the shared interest of all parties, it focuses on the issues not the person.  Aggressive and passive communication, on the other hand, may mark the end of a relationship and reduce self respect.

In the society today, many marriages have collapsed or are about to collapse due to the fact that the right of some people are being trampled upon by their partners, some find it difficult to express their feelings, thoughts and desires, some are into marriage relationship in which they count their needs without counting their spouses needs.  Many people do recognize that they are being taken advantage of but have difficulty of saying “no” to others, they do not see themselves as having these fears and anxiety but feel depressed, unsatisfied or unfulfilled leading to undesirable behaviour (Onwuasoanya, 2006).  He went ahead to say that couples who are under such conditions are said to be unassertive and cannot be free until they recognize the fact that their rights are being denied and decided to correct the situation.

For the purpose of this study, assertiveness is defined in a social-psychological sense in terms of individual’s own perceptions or interpretations of how confident he or she feels in his or her marital relationship.  The researcher therefore deemed it necessary to expose couples experiencing marital conflicts to assertiveness training to ascertain how far it will go in resolving marital conflicts.

Assertiveness training, which is one of the classical conditioning techniques of Palvlov, is a counselling approach for individuals who have difficulties in the appropriate expression of various emotions, and who lack the confidence to stand up for themselves without experiencing intense anxiety.  It is the inability of couples to demand for their rights without necessarily being hostile, aggressive or destructive that is responsible for most conflicts that couples experience in marriages.  Assertiveness training is a procedure consisting of a number of behaviour modification techniques aimed at helping individuals protect their own personal integrity without abusing the right of others (Shelton and Ackerman in Onwuasoanya, 2006).

The efficacy of assertiveness training in helping people experiencing problems has been established.  The study conducted by Nwadinobi (2011), on the effects of cognitive restructuring and assertiveness training on drug abuse among secondary school adolescents in Onitsha Educational Zone of Anambra State revealed that assertiveness training is effective in changing behaviours positively.  But the efficacy of focus group counseling is yet to be established as the variable is new in this area.  Therefore in the present study assertiveness training was used as a control to focus group counseling to determine the effect of focus group counseling in assisting couples experiencing marital instability, though the two variable were studied.

For the purpose of this study, assertiveness training is a process of exposing couples who are experiencing marital instability as a result of their inability to communicate their feelings freely, to positive communication skills.  For the purpose of this study, assertiveness training was used to assist couples experiencing marital instability to regain their marital stability.

Location is a moderating variable that may have effect on marital instability of couples whether urban or rural.  According to Yi-fu (2013), the term location in Geography is used to identify a point or an area on the earth surface or elsewhere.  Location generally implies a higher degree of certainty than place, which often indicates an entity with an ambiguous boundry, relying more on human and social attributes of place identity and sense of place than on geometry.

In the context of this study, location refers to the place at which the research is based which may be urban or rural.  Urban is placed based characteristics that incorporates element of population density, social and economic organization, and the transformation of the natural environment into a built environment (Weeks, 2008).

In the view of Simone (2009) defining the rural has been a topic in scientific, literature for decades; geographers, planners and sociologists have all dealt with this topic resulting in different approaches and views.  To Simone, there is no clear definition for the rural, different definition and approaches are used by different people and policy makers.  According to Umar (2012), rural areas may be referred to as the interior, villages or country side.  The people in the rural area are predominantly farmers and fishermen.  The urban area is the developed and civilized area based on geographical conditions.  There are varieties of people having different backgrounds, they are mainly civil servants, public servants, professionals and business men.

From the view of Abbassi and Sigh (2006) location has no significant influence on marital instability of couples, Miller (2000) argues that location has significant influence on marital stability of couples.  It is, on the basis of these conflicting findings on the possible effect of location on marital instability of couples that the present study exposed married men and women living in both urban and rural areas and were experiencing marital instability to focus group counselling and assertiveness training to ascertain the effect of the two techniques on couples from rural and urban areas.  Hence the present study:

Another variable that may have effect on marital instability of couples is gender.  According to WHO (2004) gender is used to describe those characteristics of women and men which are socially constructed.  While sex is those which are biologically determined.  People are born female or male but learn to be girls and boys who grow into women and men.  This learned behaviour makes up gender identity and determines gender roles.  Borgatta and Montgomer (2000: 1057) defined gender as the division of people into two categories “men and women”.

In the view of Hessa and Cargar (2000:91), gender is determined socially; it is the societal meaning assigned to males and females.  Each society emphasizes particular roles that each sex should play, although there is wide latitude in acceptable behaviours for each gender.  For the purpose of the current study, gender is used to mean men and women.  Women and men are socially constructed to be different in behaviour, attitude and emotions.  The gendered social order is based on and maintains those differences.  Achor (2005) found no significant interaction effect between gender and cognitive attainment of senior secondary physics students.  While Doswell and Charvon (2007) found a significant interaction effect in a behaviour change treatment of sex abstinence programme and gender on premarital sex attitudes and abstinence self efficacy of students.  The contrast in these two studies gave rise to the present study that examined the effect of gender on marital instability of couples in Anambra state.

Statement of the Problem

            The rate of separation and divorce in our society in the recent times is alarming and this give cause for worry.  According to the records from the state high court Awka, the rate of separation and divorce has been on the increase on yearly bases for the past four years.  Marital instability could be an unpleasant and devastating business to the couples, their offspring and society at large.  Efforts have been made by religious groups, professional organizations, scholars and so on to curb this menace, yet the incidence of marital instability have been on the increase.  Scholars have suggested several approaches to assist couples in maintaining marital stability in their marriages such as: equilibrium intervention, cognitive restructuring, mediation and so on, but the incidence of marital instability is still on the high side.  The researcher therefore deemed it necessary to assist couples experiencing marital instability using focus group counseling and assertiveness training in resolving their problems. The problem of this study therefore is to ascertain whether focus group counselling and assertiveness training would be able to assist couples experiencing marital instability settle their difference.

Purpose of the Study

The study aimed at determining the effects of focus group counseling and assertiveness training on marital instability of couples in Anambra State.  Specifically, this study sought to:

  1. determine the effect of focus group counselling on marital instability of couples.
  2. determine the effect of assertiveness training on marital instability of couples.
  3. ascertain the effect of location on marital instability of couples exposed to focus group counseling and those exposed to assertiveness training.
  4. ascertain the interaction effects of treatment and gender on marital instability of couples.
  5. ascertain the interaction effect of treatment and location on marital stability of couples.

Significance of the Study

            This study is anchored on marital communication theory.  The findings of the study therefore will employ marital communication theory model in the management of marital instability  of couples.  Marital communication theory model stipulates that problems are likely to arise in marriage relationship when there is lack of clarity or when there is confusion in the communication between husband and wife.  This theory will therefore be of significance to couples in developing effective and assertive communication skills to ensure marital stability. This study will be of significance in various ways to all that are concerned  with marriage counselling, particularly, the findings and recommendations will benefit counsellors, couples, potential couples, religious leaders, social welfare workers, educational planners, researchers in the field and the general public, through workshops, seminars, library, internet, conferences, marriage courses and group counselling.

The counsellor who interacts with young people during group and individual counselling will find the techniques adopted from this study useful during pre-marital counselling for infusing confidence and in developing self esteem in would be couples on marital issues.  These approaches will facilitate counselling couples who are experiencing crises and will help to make the unassertive couples assertive in handling marital issues, that can be done during counselling, workshops, seminars and conferences to enhance marital stability among couples.

The findings of the study will help the religious groups in counselling couples on the right attitudes to marriage and in modifying the aversive behaviours in couples during religious programmes.  Also in organizing marriage courses for would be couples before wedding, this is to prepare the new couple for the challenges of marital life to ensure marital stability.

Most couples end up in social welfare whenever they have marital problems.  The findings of this study will educate the social workers on the techniques to adopt in resolving marital issues to prevent separation and divorce among couples and to help the couples maintain harmonious relationship.

The findings of the study will help the education planners in planning the curriculum for guidance and counselling in universities and other institutions of higher learning, to equip the student with the techniques that will help them during group and individual counselling in preparing potential couples and couples in maintaining marital stability.

One other potential beneficiary is the researcher in the discipline who hopefully will be motivated and challenged to develop further interest in the study of marital and family therapy.  It will also add to the available resources for future researchers.

This body of knowledge will be disseminated through publication in journals, workshops, seminars and conferences.  The general public will benefit by having a stable society, without the effects of separation and divorce on the couples, their offsprings and the society at large.

Scope of the Study

The study was delimitated to finding the effects of focus group counselling and assertiveness training on marital instability of couples identified to be experiencing problems as a result of financial issues in Awka Education Zone of Anambra State, Nigeria.  In addition, gender and location of couples as variables were examined to establish their effects on marital instability of couples.

Research Questions

The study provided answers to the following questions.

  1. What is the effect of focus group counselling and assertiveness training on marital instability of couples?
  2. What is the effect of gender on the mean responses of couples exposed to focus group counsellingn and those exposed to assertiveness training on marital instability?
  3. What is the effect of location on the mean responses of couples exposed to focus group counselling and those exposed to assertiveness training on marital instability?
  4. What is the interaction effect of treatment and gender on the post-test mean responses with regards to marital instability?
  5. What is the interaction effect of treatment and location on the posttest mean responses with regards to marital instability?


            The study tested the following hypotheses at p < 0.05 level of significance.

H01.     The effect of focus group counseling and assertiveness training on mean response of marital instability of couples expose to treatment.

H02:     Effect of gender on the post test mean responses on marital instability of couples exposed to focus group counseling and assertiveness training of marital instability of couples.

H03:     Effect of location on the post-test mean responses on marital instability of couples exposed to focus group counseling and assertiveness training of marital instability of couples.

H04:     There is no significance interaction effect of treatment and gender on posttest mean responses on marital instability of couple.

H05:     There is no significant interaction effect of treatment and location on posttest mean responses on marital instability of couples.


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