Sep 18, 2015


Family Expectations (FE) is a relationship education and family support program for low-income parents who are expecting a baby or who have recently had a baby. FE is one of eight sites participating in the national evaluation of the Building Strong Families program for unmarried parents, but it also serves married parents. The program is designed to strengthen the relationships of these couples in order to foster stable and healthy home environments for their children. FE was found to have significant positive impacts on measures of relationship quality, relationship status, and maternal well-being, particularly for African American couples.


Target Population: Low-income parents who are expecting or who have recently had a baby

The Family Expectations (FE) program seeks to strengthen the relationships of low-income married and unmarried parents who will have or have just had a child by offering relationship education and family support. As one of the eight sites participating in the Building Strong Families evaluation, the program involves relationship skills education administered during group workshops, individual and couple support from family support coordinators (FSCs), and support services to assess needs and connect couples to additional services.

Instruction in group workshops is delivered by mixed-gender teams of at least two curriculum-trained staff. Couples participate in a total of 30 hours in these weekly, 3-5 hour workshops with up to 14 other couples. Each couple is assigned an FSC who supports the curriculum and participation in the workshops, assesses needs, and assists with goal-setting during meetings at a frequency determined by the couple’s assessed needs and the extent of their program participation. Couples may be referred to community or facility services including but not limited to employment, education, child care, and transportation services. The core curriculum used for instruction in this program is adapted from the Becoming Parents Program, developed by Dr. Pamela Jordan and available for purchase online by trained instructors.


Devaney, B. & Dion, R. (2010). 15-month impacts of Oklahoma’s Family Expectations program. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.

Evaluated population: A total of 1,010 couples were recruited to participate in the BSF services offered by Family Expectations in Oklahoma City. Eligibility requirements for BSF services dictated that couples: 1) be romantically involved; 2) be expecting a baby or have a baby less than three months old; 3) be unmarried or had married after the child’s conception; 4) be eighteen years of age or older; 5) be interested in participating in the program and have consented to being part of the study. Couples were then screened for risk of intimate partner violence, and those who showed evidence of risk were ineligible for FE.

At baseline, 24 percent of couples were both African American, 29 percent were both white, 20 percent were both Hispanic, and 28 percent were other or a combination thereof. Both partners held high school diplomas in 40 percent of cases, one partner held a diploma in 37 percent of cases, and neither did in 24 percent of cases. Couples’ annual earnings were $21,633 on average. Half of the couples received TANF or food stamps, and 72 percent received WIC benefits. At least one partner was younger than age 21 for 39 percent of couples. In 44 percent of cases, at least one partner had a child from a previous relationship.

Approach: Couples were recruited through a variety of methods, including referral by FE partners such as WIC centers and pregnancy clinics, mailings to Medicaid recipients, word of mouth, mass media, and in-person approach from FE staff. Individual couples were randomly assigned to an FE program group (503 couples) or a control group (507 couples) after determination of eligibility for FE. Control group couples did not receive FE services but were free to seek out other services in the community. All parents completed a baseline form upon applying to the FE program, and a telephone survey was conducted with mothers and fathers 15 months after their application to FE. This survey included measures of service receipt, relationship quality, relationship status and attitudes toward marriage, parenting and father involvement, and parent and family well-being. At least one parent responded to the 15-month survey for 87 percent of couples. Mothers responded at a rate of 82 percent and fathers responded at a rate of 73 percent.

Results: FE couples reported significantly higher relationship happiness (ES = 0.21), support and affection (ES = 0.16), use of constructive conflict behaviors (ES = 0.19), and avoidance of destructive conflict behaviors (ES = 0.14). FE had significant positive impacts on marriage attitudes for both mothers and fathers (ES = 0.18 and 0.15, respectively). FE mothers had significantly fewer depressive symptoms (ES = -0.22). FE had marginally significant impacts on partner fidelity (ES = 0.18), romantic involvement between couples (ES = 0.19), and quality of coparenting relationship (ES = 0.12).

FE did not have significant impacts on parents’ receipt of additional support services such as employment services and mental health counseling, reports of intimate partner violence by mothers or fathers, marriage or cohabitation status, mothers’ or fathers’ parenting behaviors, fathers’ depressive symptoms, mothers’ or fathers’ employment status, or mothers’ or fathers’ earnings.

However, a subgroup analysis comparing African American couples with all other couples showed that FE had more significant positive effects on romantic involvement, cohabitation, relationship happiness, support and affection, use of constructive conflict behaviors, avoidance of destructive conflict behaviors, quality of co-parenting relationship, financial support from the child’s father, and father engagement in cognitive and social play for African American couples than it did for other couples.



Devaney, B. & Dion, R. (2010). 15-month impacts of Oklahoma’s Family Expectations program. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.


Becoming Parents Program Materials:

Contact Information

Mary Myrick, APR

(405) 848-2171

KEYWORDS: Young Adults, Youth, Males and Females (Co-ed), White/Caucasian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Urban, Parent Training/Education, Depression/Mood Disorders, Social Skills/Life Skills, Family Structure/Marriage, Manual, Other

Program information last updated on 9/18/2015.