Effects of Relationship/Marriage Education on Co-parenting and Children's Social Skills: Examining Rural Minority Parents' Experiences


Relationship education, Marriage education, Co-parenting, Social skills


Research indicates that the quality of co-parenting and couple relationships has an impact on parenting and on children's development, including their social skills and academic abilities. However, few applied studies have tested whether efforts to enhance the couple and co-parenting relationship result in benefits to the children, and no research exists that tests these assumptions with underrepresented populations. This article provides information on an ongoing novel study of Head Start parents and their children. An initial cohort of 80 primarily African American, low-income parents participated in a quasi-experimental study as either participants in a relationship education program or as participant controls. Relationship education participants completed a 6-week community education program focusing on couple and co-parenting dynamics and relationship quality. Relationship education participants demonstrated better outcomes than the control participants in the area of co-parenting disagreements and reported positive effects on preschool children's social competence. Participants' scores on both measures show significant improvement at one-year follow-up, while control parents and their children demonstrate more co-parenting disagreements and decreases in children's social competence. This promising early finding, if validated through final results of the study, may lead to enhanced family programming that includes marriage and relationship education as a means to promote more prosocial behaviors in children.

Original Publication Citation

Kirkland, C.L., Skuban, E.M., Adler-Baeder, F., Ketring, S.A., Bradford, A.B., Smith, T, & Lucier-Greer, M. (2011). Effects of marriage/relationship education on coparenting and children’s social skills: Examining rural minority parents’ experiences. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 13, 2.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL



Early Childhood Research & Practice




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor