How Does Couple and Relationship Education Affect Relationship Hope? An Intervention‐Process Study with Lower Income Couples


couple and relationship education, intervention-process study, relationship hope


Objective: To explore whether changes in positive interaction skills as a result of participation in couple and relationship education (CRE) are associated with changes in relationship hope.

Background: Recent CRE work has focused more on its effectiveness for disadvantaged couples, with the early evidence mixed. Increasing the effectiveness of CRE for disadvantaged couples will require more evidence of how it works, not just whether it works.

Method: In this study, 182 lower income couples participated in a 30‐hour psychoeducational intervention, Family Expectations (FE), in Oklahoma City. Participants completed measures of positive interaction skills and relationship hope, a seldom‐studied construct in CRE research, before and shortly after the program.


At pretest, there was significant variation in relationship hope among FE participants. Latent growth curve models revealed changes in positive interaction skills were associated with higher levels of partners' relationship hope at the end of the program, although the effect of men's skills changes on their partners' hope was 3 to 4 times stronger than for women's skills changes on their partners' hope. Additional latent growth curve models found that nearly 70% of participants reported positive changes in skills and that participants entering the program with the lowest levels of hope experienced the greatest changes in positive interaction skills.

Conclusion: We conclude that relationship hope is a legitimate target outcome in CRE and is influenced by improvement in positive interaction skills, consistent with social learning theory. Also, those entering CRE with low levels of hope improve interaction skills most, and men's growth produces larger gains for the couple relationship than women's growth.

Implications: Distressed individuals and couples should be particularly encouraged to attend CRE programs, and program developers should make sure that their curricula and pedagogic processes are well aligned with men's interests and learning styles.

Original Publication Citation

Hawkins, A. J., Allen, S. E., & Yang, C. (2017). How does couple and relationship education affect relationship hope? An intervention-process study with lower income couples. Family Relations, 66, 441-452.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Permanent URL


Family Relations




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor