Relationship Education Can Reduce the Effects of Anger/Stress on Marital Conflict

by Alan J. Hawkins

The Bottom-line First: Relationship education program designers have long thought that it was important to help couples better understand and recognize their daily stresses and moods and then give them tools to prevent stresses and negative moods from igniting conflicts or turning small-disagreement mole hills into relationship-harming mountains. An important, recent study with lower income couples now documents that participation in RE can reduce the tendency for stresses and negative moods to turn disagreements into severe conflicts. Continue reading “Relationship Education Can Reduce the Effects of Anger/Stress on Marital Conflict”

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”

Different Ways to View Program Effectiveness

A Person-Oriented Approach to Evaluating Couple Relationship Education

by Jennifer Griffith

The Bottom-Line (at the Top): There are different ways to gauge whether RE programs are working. The most typical way is to measure the average change of participants. But another valuable way is to focus on variation in how participants change or stay the same, identifying different patterns of change of participants and those who benefit more or less. A recent study with a large, mostly Hispanic sample of couples looked at change with both approaches. It was couples who started the program in the mid-range of communication skills and relationship satisfaction who benefitted the most from the RE program.  Continue reading “Different Ways to View Program Effectiveness”

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?”