Three of the four policy goals of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act involve family formation. These goals reflect a large body of evidence that documents negative consequences for children of nonmarital unions and single-parent households. Although there are exceptions, children raised in single-parent families are at greater risk of living in poverty and of developing social, behavioral, and academic problems than are children raised in married-parent families.
This report presents a conceptual framework for interventions that would address the needs and circumstances of unmarried parents and provide relationship skills instruction and knowledge for those who would choose to form and sustain healthy marriages. It builds on research indicating that the period around the time of a child’s birth may represent a critical moment for strengthening couple bonds. The conceptual framework therefore focuses on designs for intervening with unwed parents just before or soon after the birth of a child. The conceptual framework is the product of several activities conducted in the Strengthening Families With Children Born Out of Wedlock study (Strengthening Families study).