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Marriage and Relationship Education Programs: Do They Work?

Posted By Constance Gamboa, Thursday, March 7, 2019

Couples typically participate in workshops in which they learn relationship skills such as learning how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Building Strong Families, involving more than 5,000 couples recruited from 8 different parts of the country. The 8 versions of the Building Strong Families program also measured couples' communication skills.

On the average, the program participants spent between 9 and 20 hours in the training workshops.

Couples who participated in the program communicated better than couples who had not participated.

Does your spouse insult you when he (she) gets angry with you?" On those measures, marriage education was totally irrelevant. Across the experimental and quasi-experimental studies, program participants reported communication that was no better than that of the couples who had not participated in the program.

Studies were conducted in 8 different locations, the participants were unmarried couples who were expecting a baby or just had one.  Group sessions focused on relationship skills, such as managing conflict, expressing affection, and considering marriage.

There were differences not just by location but also by race. Specifically, for couples in which both members were African Americans, relationship quality improved. Other couples, though, were more likely to break up if they participated in the program than if they did not.


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