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Research About Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education

Research has shown that healthy relationships are crucial to achieving safety, stability, and self-sufficiency.  Healthy marriage and relationship education focuses on building skills such as communication, conflict management, parenting, and financial literacy. These skills can be integrated into a wide variety of services for individuals, couples, and families in need.

What is Healthy Marriage Education and Why Does it Matter?

Family fragmentation—meaning divorce and single parenthood—is occurring across all racial and ethnic groups in the US today. There is compelling evidence that healthy marriage has extraordinary social and economic benefits for both parents and children. Healthy marriage and relationship education is designed to help adults and children develop the skills they need to experience healthy relationships. Service providers are uniquely positioned to help families develop these skills because of their community presence and agency resources.

Healthy marriage and relationship education can be offered to anyone, including:

  • youth learning interpersonal skills and healthy dating behaviors;
  • single individuals looking to develop a healthy relationship or break unhealthy relationship patterns;
  • unmarried couples who are building their relationship; and
  • married couples looking to sustain a healthy marriage.

Healthy relationship education involves teaching skills and principles. It should not be confused with, or used in place of, counseling or therapy. Healthy marriage and relationship education promotes family safety and is not about forcing couples to marry or to stay in unhealthy relationships.

The following free Resource Center products can assist service providers to gain a basic understanding of healthy marriage education and its potential role in their own relationships and the relationships of the clients they serve.

Expand an item below to learn more about healthy marriage and relationship education.

Healthy Relationship Skills

Healthy marriage and relationship education focuses on building and supplementing key interpersonal skills such as

  • communication,
  • conflict resolution,
  • parenting, and
  • financial management.

These four core healthy relationship skills are as important to succeeding in the workplace as they are in couple relationships, which makes integrating them into agency services in areas such as economic self-sufficiency an efficient and effective strategy.

Interested in learning more? Take the free Core Healthy Marriage and Relationship Skills courses through our Virtual Training Center.  This series uses an “inside-out” approach to help participants understand each skill at a personal level and then extend lessons learned to families and clients served.

We also provide the following free resources about these skills for basic engagement, the first level of healthy marriage and relationship skills integration.

The Tip Sheets for Service Providers and Tip Sheets for Families - available in English and Spanish - are designed as companion pieces to help service providers better understand these core relationship skills as well as share the information with the families they serve.

Tip Sheets for Service Providers. These tip sheets provide more in-depth information regarding each of these skills and their importance to the families being served:

Tip Sheets for Families. These tools are a companion to the Service Provider versions above and offer simple tips in easy-to-read handouts for families:

Tip Sheets for Service Providers in Spanish:

Tip Sheets for Families in Spanish:

Putting Research into Practice

Every day, agencies around the country are translating the research on healthy relationships into new and innovative programming. Find resources to support your agency, explore Resource Center strategies for integrating healthy relationship skills into the services your agency already provides, and learn more about what will work best for the families you serve.

Research on the Benefits of Healthy Relationships and Marriage

Want to learn more without reading all the reports? Take the free Strong Relationships, Strong Families course through our Virtual Training Center.  This two-part course presents the research behind healthy relationship programming and shares free techniques, strategies, and tools for integrating these ideas into existing agency services.

Couple relationships and parenthood are personal and private decisions. However, family dissolution has consequences that ripple through communities and stay with children into adulthood. These publications provide a framework for helping to define what is considered a healthy marriage:

Healthy Relationships, Healthy Children

Children who have and observe positive family relationships during childhood are more likely to have better physical and emotional health and to create positive, supportive relationships in adulthood. Likewise, negative and unsupportive relationships tend to be repeated in future generations.

Healthy Relationships, Healthy Communities

Table 7.Estimated Costs of Family Fragmentaton for U.S. Taxpayers*
 in billions
Justice System$19.3
TANF - Cash Assistance$5.1
Food Stamps$9.6
Housing Assistance$7.3
Child Welfare$9.2
Head Start$2.7
School Lunch and Breakfast Program$3.5
Additional U.S. Income Taxes Paid$6.1
Additional FICA Taxes Paid$9.4
Additional State and Local Taxes Paid$6.8
Total U.S.Taxpayer Cost of Family Fragmentation$112.0

Source: Scafidi, Benjamin. (2008). The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing. First-Ever Estimates for the National and All Fifty States. New York, NY: Institute for American Values.

The following resources examine how family fragmentation affects both individuals and the broader society.

Want to learn more? Additional research and reports are available in our Library on a wide range of topics. Some suggested search terms are: youth, marriage, family formation, family safety, cohabitation, divorce, and step-families.