family policy, marriage and relationship education, meta-analysis, program evaluation


In this meta-analytic study, the authors examined the efficacy of marriage and relationship education (MRE) on 2 common outcomes: relationship quality and communication skills. A thorough search produced 86 codable reports that yielded 117 studies and more than 500 effect sizes. The effect sizes for relationship quality for experimental studies ranged from d = .30 to .36, while the communication skills effect sizes ranged from d = .43 to .45. Quasi-experimental studies generated smaller effect sizes, but these appeared to be due to pretest group differences. Moderate-dosage programs produced larger effect sizes than did lows-dosage programs. For communication skills, published studies had larger effects than those of unpublished studies at follow-up; there were no publication differences for relationship quality. There was not evidence of a gender difference. Unfortunately, a lack of racial/ethnic and economic diversity in the samples prevented reliable conclusions about the effectiveness of the MRE for disadvantaged couples, a crucial deficit in the body of research. In addition, intervention outcomes important to policy makers, such as relationship stability and aggression, rarely have been addressed.

Original Publication Citation

Hawkins, A. J., Blanchard, V. L., Baldwin, S. A., & Fawcett, E. B. (2008). Does marriage and relationship education work? A meta-analytic study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 723-734.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor