Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI): Starting Early: How the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative Helps Schools Prepare Young People for Healthy Marriages. Potential Implications of This Effort

06/06/2008

One of the OMIs implicit goals is to encourage young people to delay marriage until they are more mature and ready to handle the responsibilities of family life. It is possible that increasing the age at first marriage will eventually contribute to a lower divorce rate, yet discouraging marriages among youth could inadvertently increase nonmarital childbearing. This is the reason that a simple message, by itself, to delay marriage among youth is likely to be counterproductive. Essential to the effort to decrease divorce among young people who otherwise might marry at an early age are the skills and information necessary to create and sustain a healthy relationship and prepare for a lasting marriage. Information on the consequences of nonmarital childbearing and divorce among parents, such as that included in the OMIs recent supplementary lesson on child support, is also likely to be an important element.

In addition to encouraging young people to delay marriage and avoid nonmarital childbearing, the OMI envisions other potential advantages of serving youth. Exposing young people to educationally-based material about relationships in high school could normalize the concept of marriage education so that youth would be more likely to take advantage of future opportunities as they develop, such as premarital education. Further, OMI staff hopes that providing marriage education in schools could increase their opportunities to provide comprehensive services for the entire family since it has the potential to encourage their parents to access marriage education in other community venues.

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