This report discusses findings from an evaluation of eight organizations that implemented the Building Strong Families (BSF) program, a program designed to teach relationship skills to unmarried, romantically-involved couples who were expecting or had recently had a baby. For the evaluation, over 5,000 interested couples were randomly assigned to either a BSF group that could participate in the program or a control group that could not. Data was collected on BSF's impacts on couples about 15 months after they applied for the program, focusing on the stability and quality of the couples' relationships. Short-term results indicate that, when all the programs included in the evaluation are combined, BSF did not succeed in its primary objective of improving couples' relationship quality and making them more likely to remain romantically involved or get married. Fifteen months after entering the program, the relationship outcomes of BSF couples were, on average, almost identical to those of couples in the control group. BSF had few effects on any outcomes examined by the evaluation. One exception was the program's effect on the prevalence of depressive symptoms. For both mothers and fathers, BSF significantly reduced symptoms of depression 15 months after program application and several months after most couples had stopped attending group sessions. BSF also led to a modest reduction in frequent spanking and parental stress for mothers, but had no effects on most other outcomes examined, such as father involvement, co-parenting, and economic well-being. 13 tables, 8 figures, and 13 references.
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The Building Strong Families Project: Strengthening Unmarried Parents' Relationships: The Early Impacts of Building Strong Families.