If You Host It Online, Who Will (and Will Not) Come? Individual and Partner Enrollment in a Web-Based Intervention for Distressed Couples

Allen W. Barton, S. Gabe Hatch, Brian D. Doss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the increasing utilization of online recruitment and delivery for prevention programming, the current study was designed to examine the ways in which recruitment and eligibility factors affect the resulting size and composition of participants in an online intervention. Study hypotheses were tested from a sample of 2512 low-income individuals who sought to enroll in OurRelationship, a web-based intervention for distressed couples. Results indicated that more than half of the sample (62%) learned about the OurRelationship program from results of an online search engine. Differences in participant characteristics were observed on the basis of recruitment source, with individuals recruited from an online search and from social media being characterized by higher levels of relationship distress and personal psychological distress relative to those who learned about the program through other means. Partner participation requirements also had a significant effect on the final sample of participants, as more than half of help-seeking individuals (52%) had partners who did not complete the screening enrollment form and were thus ineligible to receive services. Furthermore, compared with individuals whose partners completed the enrollment form, individuals whose partners did not participate were characterized by greater levels of break-up potential, physical aggression, communication conflict, psychological distress, and anger. Findings from the study suggest that some, but not all, online sources recruit more at-risk populations as well as illustrate the ways in which partner participation requirements can screen out interested individuals that appear in most need of services. Implications for prevention researchers and practitioners are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)830-840
Number of pages11
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Couples
  • Online
  • Prevention
  • Recruitment
  • Relationship satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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