Are Federally Supported Relationship Education Programs for Lower-Income Individuals and Couples Working?

A Review of Evaluation Research

by Alan J. Hawkins

The Bottom-line First. From the beginning of the federal Healthy Marriage and Relationships Education (HMRE) policy initiative, there has been an impressive body of serious evaluation work on the effectiveness of relationship education programs designed to help lower income couples form and sustain healthy relationships and marriages. Large-scale, rigorous, randomized controlled trial evaluation studies reveal promising successes, disappointing failures, and nuanced findings in-between. Critics’ claims that the HMRE initiative has been a failure are challenged by a thorough investigation of the research in this area. Still, federal policy needs to support more innovative approaches and strategies to increase the reach of relationship education services and improve their effectiveness. The initiative needs to move beyond a focus on program success to population impact. Continue reading “Are Federally Supported Relationship Education Programs for Lower-Income Individuals and Couples Working?”

Higher Peaks in Relationship Education

by Alan J. Hawkins

The Bottom-line First: The relationship education (RE) field has experienced a lot of successes over the past 20 years, but we can’t let this obscure our view of the higher peaks beyond. We need to raise our sites and become more innovative and strategic if we are really going to move the needle on the problems we are trying to address: family instability and social poverty. RE practitioners need to think more like public health workers. Here is a strategy for raising our sites for the next 20 years.  Continue reading “Higher Peaks in Relationship Education”

Viewing Relationship Education through the Lens of Social Poverty

By Alan J. Hawkins

The Bottom-line First. I have waited anxiously for Sarah Halpern-Meekin’s new book, Social Poverty, since I first heard her describe the study and writing project three years ago. I wasn’t disappointed. Her analysis of low-income parents’ lives and their experiences trying to strengthen their relationships for the sake of their children provides a clearer lens with which to view relationship education and federal policies to help low-income couples strengthen their relationships. Continue reading “Viewing Relationship Education through the Lens of Social Poverty”

When Less Is More:

Exploring the Implications of Eli Finkel’s “All-or-Nothing Marriage” for Marriage and Relationship Education

by Alan J. Hawkins

The Bottom-line First: In Finkel’s recent book, The All-or-Nothing Marriage, he argues that marriage has been subsumed within the current zeitgeist of individualism. This new orientation creates a more fragile basis for life-long marriage and is a major force behind family instability rates. Despite the challenges and risks, he argues that contemporary marriage is primed for people to find the most satisfying relationships that married couples have ever been able to enjoy. Today we expect peak, summit marriages with exhilarating vistas that regularly inspire us. Finkel devotes much of the book to strategies to help couples achieve these high-altitude marriages. But, importantly, he also explores how to cope when we can’t reach the summit. His analysis has important implications for relationship education. Continue reading “When Less Is More:”