Outcomes and Outcome Domains Examined in HMRE Evaluation Studies
Healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programs aim to promote healthy, stable relationships and marriages, thereby enhancing the quality and stability of participants’ lives.a HMRE programs also promote relationship stability as a way to improve economic security for families.1 Further, research demonstrates that the quality and stability of adults’ romantic relationships can translate into improved well-being for their children.2 As such, the Administration for Children and Families (the primary funder of HMRE programs) regards HMRE programs as a strategy to promote economic self-sufficiency and strengthen families.1
HMRE programs aim to impact the attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors of individuals, couples, families, and even communities.3 These programs typically teach adult and youth participants skills that research suggests are important for developing and maintaining healthy relationships. Such skills include communicating effectively, managing conflict, building intimacy, and identifying signs that a relationship may be dangerous or unhealthy.b,4,5 To know whether these programs create the change they intend—on romantic relationships and, by extension, on family and child well-being—evaluation research assesses the impact of HMRE programs on measurable indicators across a range of relevant outcome domains.
This brief describes the types and prevalence of outcomes measured in evaluations of HMRE programs over the last decade at the individual, couple, family, and community levels. The brief ends with a discussion about the potential implications of these findings, as well as various considerations for evaluators and practitioners when selecting outcomes for HMRE evaluations.
Footnotes and References
a In this brief we use the term “healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE)” to refer to both federally and non-federally funded programs. As it is used here, HMRE is interchangeable with other labels and acronyms used in the field, such as marriage and relationship education (MRE), relationship education (RE), or couple’s relationship education (CRE).
b See An Overview of Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Curriculum for a discussion of topics most commonly addressed in HMRE curricula.
1 Office of Family Assistance. (2019). “Healthy Marriage.” Washington, DC: Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ofa/programs/healthy-marriage/healthy-marriage
2 Brown, S. L. (2010). Marriage and Child Well-being: Research and Policy Perspectives. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 1059-1077.
3 Bir, A., Lerman, R., Corwin, E., MacIlvain, B., Beard, A., Richburg, K., & Smith, K. (2012). Impacts of a Community Healthy Marriage Initiative. OPRE Report #2012-34A. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/chmi_impact_analysis_tech.pdf
4 Jackson, J. B. (2009). Premarital Couple Predictors of Marital Relationship Quality and Stability: A Meta-Analytic Study. Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.
5 Gottman, J. M., Cowan, J. A., Carrère, S., & Swanson, C. (1998). Predicting Marital Happiness and Stability from Newlywed Interactions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60(1), 5-22.