Highlights from the First FRAMING Research Healthy Marriage Technical Work Group
Fatherhood, Relationships, and Marriage – Illuminating the Next Generation of Research (FRAMING Research)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
- Given that improving child well-being is a central motivation for federally funded healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programming, documenting the effects of HMRE programs on child well-being is an important research priority. Technical work group (TWG) members recommended that researchers focus on child outcomes that HMRE programs are most likely to affect directly, as well as those that are likely to change within the study follow-up period.
- For HMRE programs to be effective, participants must have substantial exposure to them. However, achieving high rates of participation can be a challenge. TWG members indicated that to promote regular attendance program staff should be immersed in the issues that participants face in their daily lives and aim to be highly responsive to participant needs.
- Recent research has suggested that HMRE programs have been more successful in improving outcomes for married couples than for unmarried couples. TWG members noted that unmarried couples who enroll in HMRE programs have a broad range of relationship circumstances. Some may be better served by focusing primarily on their co-parenting relationship.
Recognizing the importance of stable, supportive families for the healthy development of children, the federal government has supported healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programs for more than two decades. Many questions remain about how best to serve participants in these programs. The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) and the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE), both within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), are committed to building the evidence base to strengthen both HMRE and responsible fatherhood programming. To systematically identify current gaps in the knowledge base for these programs, ACF undertook the Fatherhood, Relationships, and Marriage – Illuminating the Next Generation of Research (FRAMING Research) project.
On June 25, 2019, ACF convened the first meeting of the FRAMING Research HMRE technical work group (TWG). The group included research experts on relationships, marriage, and HMRE programming, as well as HMRE practitioner experts. This brief describes the discussion at the meeting, which focused on three topics: (1) the effects of HMRE programs on child well-being, (2) increasing participation rates in HMRE programs, and (3) strengthening HMRE programming for unmarried couples with low-income backgrounds. These topics emerged from the project team’s review of the relevant literature and discussions with ACF about agency priorities. The day concluded with TWG members participating in a brainstorming session on HMRE research priorities.