Strengthening Families, Healthy Marriage & Responsible Fatherhood

This portfolio includes research and evaluation on topics such as family formation and stability, co-parenting, marriage, fatherhood, and violence in relationships. Studies include a focus on the implications of programs and policies (including welfare policies) for child, adult, and family well-being.

Featured Resources

Projects on this Topic

The National Domestic Violence Hotline Visit disclaimer page (The Hotline) and loveisrespect Visit disclaimer page (LIR; the help line targeted towards young people) are supported by the Division of Family Violence Prevention and Services within ACF’s Family and Youth Services Bureau. They are critical partners in the intervention, prevention, and resource assistance efforts of the network of family violence, domestic violence, and dating violence service providers.

The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project demonstrated that applying insights from behavioral science to challenges facing human services programs can improve program operations and outcomes at relatively low cost. The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency-Next Generation (BIAS-NG) project continues ACF’s exploration...

Many human services programs are designed such that individuals must make a series of decisions and take a number of active steps in order to realize a benefit. From deciding which programs to apply for, to completing forms, attending meetings, showing proof of eligibility, and arranging travel and child care, program designers often assume that individuals make decisions about how to proceed based on careful consideration of their options and best interests...

There is great interest in identifying effective strategies that build fathers’ capacity to support their children, both emotionally and financially. Since 2006, Congress has provided funds for discretionary grants to programs aimed at supporting fathers in three core areas....

The National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families leads and supports investigation of the needs of Hispanic populations served by ACF and of promising approaches to promote social and economic well-being among low-income Hispanic families. The Center’s research focuses on early care and education; poverty reduction and economic self-sufficiency; and fatherhood, family structure, and family dynamics. In addition to generating new research to inform ACF programs and policies to better serve Hispanic children and families, the Center aims to build research capacity by providing tools, resources, and support for the research community and emerging scholars.

The Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis Project is a contract awarded by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation to Child Trends...

Coparenting and Healthy Relationship and Marriage Education for Dads (CHaRMED) is a federal evaluation effort designed to...

Project Overview

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) funds numerous data collection efforts through research studies on a wide-range...

Evidence suggests that fathers play an important role in children's development and that they can serve as a key source of emotional and financial support. In many social services, however, fathers are...

The Family Strengthening Scholars grant program is designed to build research capacity in the healthy marriage/responsible fatherhood field (HM/RF). These grants are to support dissertation research on HM/RF policy issues and are meant to build capacity in the research field to focus research on questions that have direct implications for HM/RF decision-making and program administration...

The purpose of this project is to support activities relevant to a learning agenda for ACF’s Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) programming led by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) and supported by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE). The contractor, Mathematica Policy Research, will systematically identify gaps in the knowledge base for HMRF and connected topics or areas. Connected topics or areas could include issues identified during the course of activities outlined in this contract or other issues identified and prioritized by ACF...

The purpose of the Fatherhood and Marriage Local Evaluation and Cross-Site Project is to support ACF’s third cohort (2015-2020) of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) grantees through:

  • fostering high quality data collection;
  • strengthening grantee-led local evaluations;
  • supporting continuous quality improvement efforts; and
  • conducting cross-site performance measures analysis.

ACF’s Hispanic Research Work Group brings together experts in a wide range of content areas relevant to ACF’s mission to assist ACF/OPRE in identifying research priorities concerning low-income, Hispanic families.

In this project, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is exploring the application of human-centered design (HCD) across its service delivery programs at the federal, state, and local levels. To date, little is known regarding what HCD looks like in the context of human services, the requirements for implementation across a range of programs; the measurable outcomes and effectiveness of HCD approaches; the evaluability of HCD approaches; or the sustainability of HCD approaches.

OPRE plays a central role in advancing understanding and disseminating knowledge about research and evaluation methods and tools that are, or could be, used to enhance knowledge about program and policy effectiveness. The purpose of the Methods Inquiries project is to organize...

The Network of infant/toddler Researchers (NitR) consortium brings together leading applied researchers with policymakers and technical assistance providers responsible for overseeing and supporting early childhood programs...

To learn about the implementation and effects of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) programs, ACF awarded a contract in 2011 to Mathematica Policy Research to conduct the Parents and Children Together (PACT) evaluation. The evaluation...

The Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) is one of multiple efforts at the Federal level to reduce teen pregnancy through the use of evidence-based programs. The goals of the PREP Evaluation are to document how programs funded...

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a widespread problem in the United States and among the vulnerable populations served by Administration for Children and Families programs. However, little is known about IPV experienced and perpetrated by fathers served by the Office of Family Assistance’s Responsible Fatherhood (RF) grantees or about how RF programs address IPV in practice.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant problem for women and men in the United States, with 23% of women and 14% of men experiencing severe physical violence by an intimate partner in his or her lifetime (Smith et al., 2017 Visit disclaimer page ). Given the goal of healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programs (which are administered by the Office of Family Assistance at the Administration for Children and Families) to strengthen and improve the quality of marriages and relationships, addressing IPV for healthy relationship program participants is of critical concern.

OPRE awarded eight cooperative agreements to fund research to conduct secondary data analysis of archived ACF data, specifically the Building Strong Families (BSF), Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM), and Community Healthy Marriage Initiative (CHMI)...

In 2013, OPRE commissioned four interrelated reports on self-regulation and toxic stress from a team at the Center for Child and Social Policy at Duke University. That team and other experts have since created multiple practice-oriented resources grounded in the initial reports. Together, these reports and resources comprise the ‘Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Series.’ 

This project developed a framework to provide marriage educators with a set of concepts to help them better understand their craft and discover unseen possibilities. It is designed to help marriage educators think more thoroughly, systematically...
An Exploration of Options for the Collection of Marriage and Divorce Statistics at the National, State and Local Levels project explored options for the collection of marriage and divorce statistics at the national, state and local levels...

Many human services programs are designed such that individuals must make active decisions and go through a series of steps in order to benefit from them — from deciding which programs to apply for, to completing forms, attending meetings, showing proof of eligibility, and arranging travel and child care...

The Building Strong Families (BSF) study, led by Mathematica, is a multi-site impact and implementation evaluation of healthy marriage and relationship education and support services offered to unwed parents at or near the birth of their child...

This project involved the identification and case study of selected programs working with new, unwed parents to provide those interested with the knowledge and skills necessary to enter into and sustain healthy relationships and marriages...

The Ex-Prisoner Reentry Strategies Study (or “Father Reentry Study”) was an implementation study of six Responsible Fatherhood programs initially funded in 2011 under the Responsible Fatherhood grant program. The grantees administered their programs to incarcerated, soon-to-be released, and recently released fathers both in correctional institutions and in the community...

This project explored how low-income couples make decisions. Specifically, the project explored, through observational methods, the mechanisms and factors which influence the couple as a unit (as well as the individual partners in low-income couples)...
Hurricane Katrina was perhaps the largest single natural disaster in America’s history. Millions of people were on the hurricane’s path. About half a million people in New Orleans were displaced by floods caused by Hurricane Katrina...

The purpose of the Healthy Marriage/Relationship Education: Models and Measures project, awarded to Child Trends, is to bring together experts in the field to develop recommendations for “next-generation” marriage/relationship education...

This exploratory study synthesized research relevant to decision-making and behavior about family formation, marriage, employment and earnings and family time use with a focus on low-income populations and included a conceptual framework for further...

This project provided a comprehensive process and output evaluation of selected ACF Healthy Marriage grantees that serve Hispanic families, addressing a key programmatic question of the Hispanic Healthy Marriage Initiative (HHMI): how are healthy...

The Home Visiting: Approaches to Father Engagement and Fathers' Experiences Study is a qualitative project that will collect information about innovative approaches used by existing home visiting programs to actively...

This exploratory study synthesized research relevant to decision-making and behavior about family formation, marriage, employment and earnings and family time use with a focus on low-income populations and included a conceptual framework for further...
This project examined a range of literature about the marriage and family formation decisions of low-income couples, including unmarried parents and those receiving public assistance, in order to document the relevant research questions that have been...
The NLSY97 – Potential Opportunities for Marriage and Family Research project was designed to bring together experts with extensive experience with the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data and experts on marriage and the family to identify...

This contract aims to develop an evidence-informed research dissemination strategy for OPRE to improve the communication and usefulness of research and evaluation findings to targeted audiences...

The purpose of this task order, awarded to Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., was to conduct a systematic evidence review by identifying and cataloging studies of programs serving low-income fathers and those serving couples and rating the quality...

This project investigated how existing work on racial and ethnic disparities could inform more accurate identification and interpretation of ethnic and racial differences in programs administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Through this work, this project...

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...
The Strengthening Families with Children Born Out-of-Wedlock project was jointly funded by ACF’s Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation and Office of Child Support Enforcement. Researchers conducting this study utilized research, information...

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) is undertaking a descriptive study to document the approaches and strategies utilized by tribal organizations awarded cooperative agreements under the Coordination of Tribal TANF and Child Welfare...

The Supporting Healthy Marriage in Step-Families project: (1) summarized and synthesized the existing literature concerning the characteristics of stepfamilies, (2) catalogued and documented existing marriage support and education programs focused...

The Supporting Healthy Marriage study, led by MDRC, is an impact and implementation evaluation of healthy marriage education and related services for lower-income married couples with children provided by eight programs across the country....

Effect sizes are increasingly applied to describe the magnitude of findings about program effectiveness across a range of policy contexts. Though more researchers are recognizing the importance of including effect sizes in manuscripts, at times these...

The Community Healthy Marriage Initiatives (CHMI) Evaluation, led by RTI, includes: (1) implementation evaluations of family strengthening demonstrations authorized by the Office of Child Support Enforcement and (2) an implementation...

The Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) was a cooperative agreement awarded to Temple University with a subcontract to the Center for Policy Research in Denver, CO. The FRPN pursued three main goals:

  1. Promote rigorous evaluation of fatherhood programs.
  2. Expand the number of researchers and practitioners collaborating to evaluate fatherhood programs by providing training and technical assistance to develop their capacity to conduct and participate in high-quality research studies and evaluations.
  3. Disseminate information that leads to effective fatherhood practice and research.
Good program evaluations assess program performance, measure impacts on families and communities, and document our success. With this information, programs are better able to direct limited resources to where they are most needed and most effective in...

The purpose of the Youth Education and Relationship Services (YEARS) Project, awarded to Child Trends, was to better understand the services that federally-funded Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (HMRE) programs are providing to youth. The project described the organizations implementing HMRE programs...