Healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programming—also called marriage and relationship education or relationship education programming— teaches concepts and skills that promote healthy, safe, and stable relationships among youth and adults.1 When designing and implementing an HMRE program, one of the most important decisions that program providers must make is to choose which curriculum to implement. For example, organizations can use curricula developed by external developers that come with predetermined content, materials, and activities, or they may develop their own curriculum. With either approach, organizations need to consider many factors when assessing whether a specific curriculum is appropriate for a given program: For example, does the curriculum content align with the goal of that program, and is it designed for the program’s target population?

To help HMRE program providers (and the evaluators who work with them) better understand and assess various aspects of HMRE curricula, this brief provides an overview of the design of HMRE curricula implemented in programs that have been formally evaluated.a Synthesizing information from 21 HMRE curricula, the brief describes the target population(s) for which each curriculum is designed, the HMRE-related topics it addresses, any specific curriculum adaptations available (e.g., is it available in Spanish?), how the curriculum is delivered (activities), the recommended dosage of the curriculum, and whether facilitator training is needed implement the curriculum. The brief also discusses implications for future research and practice to improve the design and implementation of HMRE curricula. Appendix A provides a more detailed summary of each curriculum. An HMRE Curriculum Assessment Tool has also been developed to further assist program staff in selecting appropriate curricula.

Key Findings

  • The HMRE curricula included in this review were most commonly designed for married and/or unmarried adult couples or adult individuals.
  • Many HMRE curricula have been adapted for use with particular sub-populations targeted and served by HMRE programs—for example, low-income couples or individuals in the military. However, relatively few of the curricula reviewed were initially designed for these populations.
  • The topics included in specific HMRE curricula often align with the unique needs of their target populations, but most address conflict management and communication.
  • Establishing consistent and research-based core components (topics and activities) could improve HMRE curriculum delivery and facilitate replication in different settings and with different populations.
  • Some curricula offer training to facilitators, and some require that facilitators be certified before delivering the curriculum. Incorporating more such formal staff training and assessing the quality of these trainings could improve overall delivery of HMRE curricula.

Footnotes

a We limit our review to curricula that have been used in HMRE programs that have been formally evaluated in terms of how they were implemented (implementation or process evaluation) or their effects on participant outcomes (outcome evaluation). However, the current brief focuses on the design of HMRE curricula rather than on the implementation of these curricula in practice or on their effectiveness in achieving a program’s desired outcomes.


References

1 Markman, H. J., & Rhoades, G. K. (2012). Relationship education research: Current status and future directions. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38(1), 169-200.