Strategies for Building Healthy Relationship Skills Among Couples Affected by Incarceration. Choosing the Right Curriculum


The relationship education curricula used by the MFS-IP grantees address the three basic components of marriage and relationship education as required by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA): improving communication between couples, improving individual couples ability to resolve their conflicts, and strengthening a couples commitment to increasing marital or relationship stability.  Six MFS-IP sites (the grantees in New Hampshire, South Dakota, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, and Texas) delivered a PREP curriculum.  Most sites used Within Our Reach (PREP Educational Products, Inc., 2008) or Within My Reach (PREP for Individuals, Inc., 2008), versions of the curriculum tailored for delivery to low-income couples or individuals.  However, in year 4, the Indiana grantee switched to the new version of PREP developed for incarcerated men (Walking the Line; PREP for Individuals, Inc., 2010) for its men-only PREP classes.  In addition to PREP, four grantees used other commercial curricula, including Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills (PAIRS Essentials; PAIRS Foundation, 2010), which was used by the Tennessee grantee; Exploring Healthy Relationships and Marriage with Fragile Families (Center for Urban Families, 2004), which was used by the Maryland grantee; Married and Loving It! (MALI Inc., 2011), which was used by the New Jersey grantee; and Couple Communication I and II (Interpersonal Communication Programs [ICP], Inc., 2011 and 2010, respectively), which were used by the Ohio grantee.  These commercially available modules focused on helping couples learn relationship skills, such as effective communication and conflict resolution.

Spotlight on Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP)
Six MFS-IP grantees chose to use PREPs Within My Reach or Within Our Reach curricula, which were specifically targeted to low-income families, for their marriage and relationship education component.
  • Within Our Reach is a program designed to help couples achieve their goals in relationships, family, and marriage.  The curriculum is designed to build on the existing strengths of the couple and add critical life and relationship skills to help participants create safer, more stable couple relationships  and, by extension, better environments for their children.  Unit titles include Weve Got Issues; By My Side: Supporting Each Other; You, Me, and Us; and Connecting with Community.
  • Within My Reach is a program designed for individuals that covers three major themes  Building Relationships, Maintaining Relationships, and Making Relationship Decisions.  Unit titles include Healthy Relationships: What They Are and What They Arent, Knowing Yourself First, Dangerous Patterns in Relationships, Commitment: Why It Matters to Adults and Children, and Reaching into Your Future.

The New York grantee incorporated input from incarcerated men in adapting two commercially available curricula (PREP and PAIRS) for use with its target population.  Similarly, the California grantee incorporated some elements of PREP along with feedback from incarcerated men in the curriculum developed for use in its couples workshops.  The customized and adapted curricula emphasize ways to maintain family relationships during and after incarceration and address other needs of the populations served in these sites.

View full report


"rb.pdf" (pdf, 707.4Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®