Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Family Consumer Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Ryan Seedall


Ryan Seedall


Dave Robinson


Kay Bradford


The field of marriage and family therapy (MFT) has enjoyed tremendous growth over the past 60 years. As the charismatic pioneers of MFT strove to gain legitimacy in the early years, the culture of MFT lacked a focus on quality empirical research needed to lend credibility to the field. In the past 20 years, a surge of efficacy and effectiveness research has pointed the field in a positive direction. Doctoral dissertations offer valuable insight into what is being learned by future researchers and suggest in what direction the field is heading. Previous articles voice concern over a gap between researchers producing the research and therapists who should be a vital consumer. A content analysis was performed on all 157 doctoral dissertations from 19 COAMFTE-accredited Ph.D. programs between the years of 2005 and 2008. The sample was gathered through the ProQuest thesis and dissertation database. Dissertations were coded according to research methodology, clinical focus, and whether they were published. Results showed that women consisted of two-thirds (n = 106) of the dissertations finished within the timeframe and that men published on average more than women. Findings also suggest a significant lack of dissertations being published (16.5%; n = 26) with downward trends from 2005 to 2008. Out of the dissertations published, however, the quality was high with a mean impact factor of .940. Trends show an increase in qualitative research and a noticeable lack of process research. Of all the dissertations produced within 2005 and 2008, almost one in five dissertations lacked explicit clinical application in the study. Ways to improve the amount of clinically relevant research are discussed. Suggestions are made as to the role of advisors in the publication process as well as to improve the quantity of dissertations published in COAMFTE-accredited doctoral programs.