Service Delivery and Evaluation Design Options for Strengthening and Promoting Healthy Marriages, 2002-2004

Prior research suggests that there is promising evidence that couples participating in marriage and relationship education programs can learn specific skills to improve their relationships and reduce patterns of negative interaction in order to maintain higher levels of relationship satisfaction. This study involved a meta-analysis of research studies of the effectiveness of interventions to strengthen couple relationships and marriages. Researchers reviewed and screened more than 12,000 research abstracts and identified 39 studies that met the inclusion criteria. This study also involved the examination of operating programs to identify opportunities for potential expansion of healthy relationship and marriage services to low-income couples and individuals. The study also involved the development of recommendations regarding evaluation design options.

The major study questions addressed in this project include (1) What existing service settings do, or hold the potential to, strengthen healthy marriages through premarital services, services to enrich marriages, services to help troubled marriages or prevent divorce, or other models? (2) What programs operate through these service delivery mechanisms? (3) What are the major features or components used in the programs to encourage, strengthen and support healthy marriages? (4) How can these models or component pieces be incorporated into future interventions to strengthen families and increase healthy marriages? (5) What evidence is there for program effectiveness? (6) Have programs been rigorously evaluated and were client populations well defined in the past? If so, what were the settings, targeted populations and program delivery methods for previous evaluations? (7) How, if at all, did variations in setting affect program effectiveness? (8) What does existing literature suggest about the effectiveness of the identified programs? (9) What does the literature suggest works best for specific populations and under what specific conditions or settings? (10) What are the marriage-related outcomes for participants? (11) What other outcomes for adult and child well being are measured to determine program effectiveness, and how are outcomes measured? (12) What difficulties have been encountered in collecting data for outcome measurement? (13) What data quality controls have been implemented? (14) What are the major challenges to evaluating each program, including evaluating program impacts? (15) What does the literature suggest could be potential evaluation design issues and how they might be addressed? (16) What are major challenges to expanding or replicating successful program models?

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