Can Marriage and Relationship Education Be an Effective Policy Tool to Help Low-Income Couples Form and Sustain Healthy Marriages and Relationships? A Review of Lessons Learned


family policy, legal issues, marriage, marriage and relationship education


This review summarizes and synthesizes what researchers and practitioners have learned about the potential of public policy support for marriage and relationship education (MRE) to help lower income individuals and couples form and sustain healthy marriages and relationships. In short, this review documents modest, early evidence that low-income couples participate in well-designed MRE programs when they are offered, enjoy the educational experience, and report that the program is helpful. Practitioners have been going through a fast and steep learning process to figure out how best to recruit and maintain participation and adapt curricula to meet unique needs and situations. The evidence from the early outcome studies provides some support for the notion that MRE programs can have positive, modest effects on low-income couples' relationships, at least in the short run. However, much more research is needed to answer this question more definitively. Fortunately, more high-quality evaluation research will be coming over the next few years.

Original Publication Citation

Hawkins, A. J., & Ooms, T. (2012). Can marriage and relationship education be an effective policy tool to help low-income couples form and sustain healthy marriages and relationships? A review of lessons learned. Marriage and Family Review, 48, 524-554.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Marriage & Family Review




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor