The Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM) evaluation was launched in 2003 to test the effectiveness of a skills-based relationship education program designed to help low-and modest-income married couples strengthen their relationships and to support more stable and more nurturing home environments and more positive outcomes for parents and their children. The evaluation was led by MDRC with Abt Associates and other partners, and it was sponsored by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This paper presents the results of an exploratory analysis that examines whether SHM program impacts vary by six subgroup-defining characteristics.
SHM was a voluntary, yearlong, marriage education program for lower-income, married couples who had children or were expecting a child. The program provided group workshops based on structured curricula; supplemental activities to build on workshop themes; and family support services to address participation barriers, connect families with other services, and reinforce curricular themes. The study’s random assignment design compared outcomes for families who were offered SHM’s services with outcomes for a similar group of families who were not offered SHM’s services but could access other services in the community.
The study’s main impact reports limited subgroup analysis to three potential moderators of impacts 12 months and 30 months after couples entered the study: couples’ level of marital distress, family income-to-poverty level, and race/ethnicity. This paper explores whether the impacts of the SHM program on marital quality and stability outcomes differ according to six additional subgroup-defining characteristics at the 12-and 30-month follow-up points: (1) length of marriage at study entry, (2) experience of abuse or neglect in the family of origin, (3) psychological distress at study entry, (4) whether the extended family respects and values the couple’s marriage, (5) presence of a stepchild in the household, and (6) presence of a young child (under 3) in the household. (author abstract)