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?”

Important, Rigorous Government Study Finds Positive Impacts of RE Programs

by Alan J. Hawkins

The bottom-line (at the top): There has been a healthy debate over how effective relationship education (RE) programs for disadvantaged couples have been. Over the 12 years, the Administration for Children and Families has been pursuing a policy of support for RE programs to improve couple relationships and family stability. The mixed results so far call for more research. That’s why I have been anxiously awaiting the results of the Parents and Children Together evaluation study, another rigorous test of the effectiveness of RE. Good news! This study found positive effects on a range of important outcomes. Continue reading “Important, Rigorous Government Study Finds Positive Impacts of RE Programs”

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”