Performance Improvement 2008. What Education Promotes Healthy Marriages Among Low-Income Stepfamily Couples?


This study developed a conceptual framework for healthy marriage education intervention with married stepfamily couples. Research indicated that children raised in stepfamilies do not fare as well as children raised by their married biological parents. The study reviewed research literature on stepfamily prevalence, characteristics, dynamics, marital stability/quality, and outcomes for children. Researchers conducted telephone interviews and site visits with program operators to obtain practitioner perspectives about working with stepfamilies.

Research literature suggested that stepfamily couples would benefit from the same "core elements" that emerge from research on healthy marriage generally including communication skills, conflict management skills, effective anger and stress management, emotion regulation, and friendship building skills. The research has found that adults in stepfamilies often fail to recognize characteristics that make couple and family functioning within stepfamilies different. Marriage education programs for stepfamilies should include elements not generally found in most marriage education curricula. These components should focus on the effects of stepparent-stepchild relationships on the quality and stability of the marital relationship, co-parenting skills and other methods for dealing with former spouses and extended family. The conceptual framework for an intervention model identifies program service content that is derived from and supported by both the research and practitioner fields, antecedent conditions that may need to be addressed directly within programs or through referrals, and intermediate and longer-term outcome goals. Intermediate goals include improving basic marital skills, understanding unique stepfamily characteristics, and developing more effective stepparent-stepchild and parent-child relationships. Longer term goals include seeking increased marital stability and improved adult and child well-being.

Report Title: Meeting the Needs of Married, Low-income Stepfamily Couples in Marriage Education Services,
Agency Sponsor
: ACF-OPRE, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Federal Contact: Nancye Campbell, 202-401-5760
Performer: Abt Associates Inc.

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"PerformanceImprovement2008.pdf" (pdf, 1.29Mb)

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