Over 2.5 million students across the country complete their high school education each year.(1)Т How many of these students will emerge from their adolescent years with the skills and information they need to choose a life partner and form a healthy marriage and stable family?Т To increase the odds that young people in Oklahoma will enter adult life prepared to address these important life tasks, the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI) works with the states high schools to help them offer a research-based curriculum that addresses relationships and marriage in ways that are relevant to the needs and interests of youth.Т The OMI approach has resulted in a long-term sustainable effort that has strong institutional support.Т More than 55,000 students so far have elected to take the classes at 289 schools across the state.
From its inception, the OMI recognized that youth are key to its mission of strengthening families and reducing the rate of divorce in the state. The OMIs 2001 statewide survey found that Oklahomans tend to marry for the first time at a younger age than other AmericansТ on average 2ТН years younger. Consistent with national data, the survey also showed that Oklahomans who marry young are more likely to divorce than those who marry later.(2)Т More than half of Oklahomans who married before reaching the age of 20 had divorced at the time of the survey. The survey also found that young people between 18-20 years of age were less positive about marriage as an institution, and more accepting of divorce and cohabitation, than older Oklahomans.
Nevertheless, survey respondents aged 18-24 years also were much more likely than older age groups to say they would consider relationship education such as workshops or classes to strengthen their relationship. This positive finding opened the door for offering services to youth. The remaining challenge for the OMI then, was to identify the best way to deliver these services.