Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education for Expectant and New Mothers: The One-Year Impacts of MotherWise

Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education for Expectant and New Mothers: The One-Year Impacts of MotherWise

Strengthening Relationship Education and Marriage Services, OPRE Report Number 2021-183
Published: Sep 30, 2021
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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Associated Project

Strengthening Relationship Education and Marriage Services (STREAMS) Evaluation

Time frame: 2015-2022

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

Key Findings
  • MotherWise positively affected women’s relationship skills and attitudes after one year. Compared to women in the control group, those offered the MotherWise program reported better relationship skills and more healthy attitudes toward relationships one year after entering the program.
  • Women in the MotherWise group were less likely to report having an unintended pregnancy in the year after entering the study. Only 7 percent reported an unintended pregnancy during this period, compared to 11 percent of women in the control group.
  • Women in the MotherWise and control groups reported similar levels of experiences of intimate partner violence, co-parenting quality, and emotional well-being at the one-year follow-up.
  • About three-quarters of women entered the MotherWise study in a steady romantic relationship with their baby’s father. In both the program and control groups, about 9 in 10 of these women remained in that relationship a year later. Exploratory analyses suggest that, among women who remained in a relationship with their baby’s father, MotherWise improved the quality of that relationship.

To help build the evidence base on the diverse set of HMRE programs serving individual adults, this study examines MotherWise, a relationship skills program for women with low incomes who are pregnant or have just had a baby. This report describes the program’s impacts after one year. These impacts were estimated by comparing the outcomes of women who were randomly assigned to either a group that was offered MotherWise services or a control group that was not. The report also provides information on program implementation and costs and documents the study methods. At the one-year follow-up, we found that MotherWise succeeded in improving the outcomes it most directly aimed to affect—that is, strengthening participants’ perceived relationship skills and improving their attitudes about healthy relationships. MotherWise reduced unintended pregnancies but did not reduce experiences of intimate partner violence or depressive symptoms or improve the quality of the co-parenting relationship at the one-year point. A future report will examine longer-term impacts of the MotherWise program, based on a follow-up survey of women 30 months after they enrolled in the study. Mathematica and Public Strategies conducted this study as part of the Strengthening Relationship Education and Marriage Services (STREAMS) evaluation for ACF.

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