Continuing the Important Debate on Government-Supported Healthy Marriages and Relationships Initiatives: A Brief Response to Johnson's (2014) Comment


marriage, HMRI, TANF, low-income couples


I appreciate the opportunity to continue the important debate on the merits and wisdom of public policy efforts to support educational services designed to help lower income couples form healthy relationships and enduring marriages. Johnson (2014) has critiqued the recent article in Family Relations (Hawkins, Amato, & Kinghorn, 2013), which attempted to document at the demographic level whether public funding of Healthy Marriages and Relationships Initiatives (HMRIs) was having any effect. Despite the brief time frame this policy initiative has been active (since 2005), the limited funding for the initiatives (< $800 million total), and the indirect measurement of the reach of these initiatives (i.e., dollars rather than actual participation in programs), we found some evidence of potential small effects (e.g., family structure, child poverty), although we acknowledged there are reasonable concerns about how reliable our early findings may be due to potential outlier effects and other issues. In this brief response to Johnson's comment, I want to clarify a few points and then raise a broader issue in the debate.

Original Publication Citation

Hawkins, A. J. (2014). Continuing the important debate on government-supported healthy marriages and relationships initiatives: A brief response to Johnson’s comment. Family Relations, 63, 305-308.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Family Relations




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor