Book Review — Proposing Prosperity: Marriage Education Policy and Inequality in America

by Alan J. Hawkins

The Bottom-line First: While I value the contribution Jennifer Randles’ book makes to the field, I have some beefs with her analysis of federal policy efforts to promote relationship education. She argues that relationship education is the wrong approach because healthy relationships and marriages are a product of social and economic circumstances that provide a nurturing environment in which relationships can flourish. She asserts an economic threshold below which romantic relationship aspirations are essentially hopeless. Yes, we need to work to improve the social and economic ecology that nurtures romantic relationships, that makes it easier for love to thrive. But ultimately, her argument inadvertently minimizes the dignity of those she sincerely hopes to help. As she documents, participants in the program she studied in-depth overwhelmingly enjoyed and appreciated the program for the message of hope it delivered, despite their difficult circumstances. They valued the knowledge and skills that gave them a sense of agency to achieve their relationship aspirations, even knowing the obstacles ahead. Randles worries that hope is false and insensitive. I disagree.  Continue reading “Book Review — Proposing Prosperity: Marriage Education Policy and Inequality in America”

The “Zenith Problem” in Relationship Education

Confronting Our Biggest Challenge for the Future

by Alan J. Hawkins

The Bottom-line (at the Top): The relationship education (RE) field has never been stronger. There is substantial public funding supporting RE, especially for more at-risk individuals and couples. Talented scholars have published hundreds of evaluation studies testing program effectiveness and mechanisms of change, with another wave of good research on the horizon. There is effective leadership. We could be seeing the zenith of our field. So, what’s the problem? The work we are doing just won’t have the kind of societal impact that we need it to have. Innovations — big changes — are needed in the field if we are going to have a noteworthy impact . And we may be stuck in our current successes.  Continue reading “The “Zenith Problem” in Relationship Education”

The Rewards of Compassionate Acts

by Jennifer Griffith

The Bottom-line First: Is compassion really its own reward? In this study, the authors found that small, daily acts of compassion for your spouse improve both your spouse’s well-being and your own. Although the effect is greatest when spouses mutually recognize these selfless acts, even when a spouse does not notice an act it still improves the well-being of the giver.  Continue reading “The Rewards of Compassionate Acts”

Does Relationship Education Improve Children’s Well-being?

by Alan J. Hawkins

The Bottom-Line (at the Top): This blog builds on Jennifer’s blog last week on how RE can affect children’s social skills. The ultimate purpose of couple relationship education (CRE) is to improve couple relationships as a way to increase their children’s well-being. A small number of CRE evaluation studies have shown small effects on children’s well-being. The most recent one of the “Parents as Partners” program in Great Britain not only found that the program strengthens couple relationships and improves individual psychological well-being, but it also increased fathers’ involvement with their children and reduced their children’s emotional and behavioral problems. Continue reading “Does Relationship Education Improve Children’s Well-being?”