Catalog of Research: Programs for Low-Income Couples

Publication Date: May 15, 2012


In the past few decades, research showing the advantages to children of being raised by both parents in healthy, stable relationships has led to an increase in couple-based programs designed to enhance relationship or co-parenting skills. In response to interest in such programming, the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), engaged Mathematica Policy Research to conduct the Strengthening Families Evidence Review (SFER) to identify and review studies of family-strengthening programs. This catalog focuses on studies of programs that served low-income couples; a separate catalog presents studies of programs that served low-income fathers.

This catalog compiles information from 54 studies of 39 programs. Each study description provides details on the research, such as study design and characteristics of those included in the sample, and of the programs, such as structure, staffing and operations. The descriptions are based on the information provided by the study authors and may not include complete information on individual programs.

Most of the studies analyze participant outcomes—for example, status of and satisfaction with relationships—but vary in the strength of their evidence for determining whether the programs themselves caused the reported outcomes. To help readers assess the strength of the evidence on outcomes, we rated the studies based on the likelihood that the estimated effects are the result of the program rather than other factors, such as natural change over time. The ratings categories—high, moderate, low, and unrated—are based on each study’s design, execution, and analysis. Studies that only focus on aspects other than participant outcomes, such as program operations and implementation, are unrated.

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