Strengthening Families, Healthy Marriage & Responsible Fatherhood

This portfolio includes research and evaluation on topics such as family formation and stability, co-parenting, marriage, fatherhood, and violence in relationships. Studies include a focus on the implications of programs and policies (including welfare policies) for child, adult, and family well-being.

Featured Resources

Projects on this Topic

This project developed a framework to provide marriage educators with a set of concepts to help them better understand their craft and discover unseen possibilities. It is designed to help marriage educators think more thoroughly, systematically...

The National Domestic Violence Hotline Visit disclaimer page Visit disclaimer page Visit disclaimer page (The Hotline) and loveisrespect Visit disclaimer page Visit disclaimer page Visit disclaimer page (LIR; the help line targeted towards young people) are supported by the Division of Family Violence Prevention and Services within ACF’s Family and Youth Services Bureau. They are critical partners in the intervention, prevention, and resource assistance efforts of the network of family violence, domestic violence, and dating violence service providers. They provide:

An Exploration of Options for the Collection of Marriage and Divorce Statistics at the National, State and Local Levels project explored options for the collection of marriage and divorce statistics at the national, state and local levels...

Many human services programs are designed such that individuals must make active decisions and go through a series of steps in order to benefit from them — from deciding which programs to apply for, to completing forms, attending meetings, showing proof of eligibility, and arranging travel and child care...

The Building Strong Families (BSF) study, led by Mathematica, is a multi-site impact and implementation evaluation of healthy marriage and relationship education and support services offered to unwed parents at or near the birth of their child...

This project involved the identification and case study of selected programs working with new, unwed parents to provide those interested with the knowledge and skills necessary to enter into and sustain healthy relationships and marriages...

The Ex-Prisoner Reentry Strategies Study (or “Father Reentry Study”) was an implementation study of six Responsible Fatherhood programs initially funded in 2011 under the Responsible Fatherhood grant program. The grantees administered their programs to incarcerated, soon-to-be released, and recently released fathers both in correctional institutions and in the community...

This project explored how low-income couples make decisions. Specifically, the project explored, through observational methods, the mechanisms and factors which influence the couple as a unit (as well as the individual partners in low-income couples)...
Hurricane Katrina was perhaps the largest single natural disaster in America’s history. Millions of people were on the hurricane’s path. About half a million people in New Orleans were displaced by floods caused by Hurricane Katrina...

The purpose of the Healthy Marriage/Relationship Education: Models and Measures project, awarded to Child Trends, is to bring together experts in the field to develop recommendations for “next-generation” marriage/relationship education...

This exploratory study synthesized research relevant to decision-making and behavior about family formation, marriage, employment and earnings and family time use with a focus on low-income populations and included a conceptual framework for further...

This project provided a comprehensive process and output evaluation of selected ACF Healthy Marriage grantees that serve Hispanic families, addressing a key programmatic question of the Hispanic Healthy Marriage Initiative (HHMI): how are healthy...

ACF’s Hispanic Research Work Group brings together experts in a wide range of content areas relevant to ACF’s mission to assist ACF/OPRE in identifying research priorities concerning low-income, Hispanic families.

The Home Visiting: Approaches to Father Engagement and Fathers' Experiences Study is a qualitative project that will collect information about innovative approaches used by existing home visiting programs to actively...

Explore findings on families experiencing homelessness that cover a range of domains: behavioral health, well-being, self-sufficiency, family separations, foster care, employment, family transitions, TANF receipt, SNAP receipt, and more.

This exploratory study synthesized research relevant to decision-making and behavior about family formation, marriage, employment and earnings and family time use with a focus on low-income populations and included a conceptual framework for further...
This project examined a range of literature about the marriage and family formation decisions of low-income couples, including unmarried parents and those receiving public assistance, in order to document the relevant research questions that have been...
The NLSY97 – Potential Opportunities for Marriage and Family Research project was designed to bring together experts with extensive experience with the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data and experts on marriage and the family to identify...

To learn about the implementation and effects of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) programs, ACF awarded a contract in 2011 to Mathematica Policy Research to conduct the Parents and Children Together (PACT) evaluation. The evaluation had multiple components: separate impact and process studies for responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage programs and five sub-studies.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a widespread problem in the United States and among the vulnerable populations served by Administration for Children and Families programs. However, little is known about IPV experienced and perpetrated by fathers served by the Office of Family Assistance’s Responsible Fatherhood (RF) grantees or about how RF programs address IPV in practice.

The purpose of this task order, awarded to Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., was to conduct a systematic evidence review by identifying and cataloging studies of programs serving low-income fathers and those serving couples and rating the quality...

This project investigated how existing work on racial and ethnic disparities could inform more accurate identification and interpretation of ethnic and racial differences in programs administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Through this work, this project...

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant problem for women and men in the United States, with 23% of women and 14% of men experiencing severe physical violence by an intimate partner in his or her lifetime (Smith et al., 2017 Visit disclaimer page Visit disclaimer page Visit disclaimer page ). Given the goal of healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programs (which are administered by the Office of Family Assistance at the Administration for Children and Families) to strengthen and improve the quality of marriages and relationships, addressing IPV for healthy relationship program participants is of critical concern.

OPRE awarded eight cooperative agreements to fund research to conduct secondary data analysis of archived ACF data, specifically the Building Strong Families (BSF), Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM), and Community Healthy Marriage Initiative (CHMI) datasets. The grantees are covering topics such as the economic benefits of marriage and relationship education (MRE) programs, child outcomes related to MRE, race/ethnic differences in marriage health and stability, and the experiences of fathers in MRE.

Prior research suggests that there is promising evidence that couples participating in marriage and relationship education programs can learn specific skills to improve their relationships and reduce patterns of negative interaction in order to...
The Strengthening Families with Children Born Out-of-Wedlock project was jointly funded by ACF’s Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation and Office of Child Support Enforcement. Researchers conducting this study utilized research, information...

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) is undertaking a descriptive study to document the approaches and strategies utilized by tribal organizations awarded cooperative agreements under the Coordination of Tribal TANF and Child Welfare...

The Supporting Healthy Marriage in Step-Families project: (1) summarized and synthesized the existing literature concerning the characteristics of stepfamilies, (2) catalogued and documented existing marriage support and education programs focused...

The Supporting Healthy Marriage study, led by MDRC, is an impact and implementation evaluation of healthy marriage education and related services for lower-income married couples with children provided by eight programs across the country....

Effect sizes are increasingly applied to describe the magnitude of findings about program effectiveness across a range of policy contexts. Though more researchers are recognizing the importance of including effect sizes in manuscripts, at times these...

The Community Healthy Marriage Initiatives (CHMI) Evaluation, led by RTI, includes: (1) implementation evaluations of family strengthening demonstrations authorized by the Office of Child Support Enforcement and (2) an implementation...

The Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) was a cooperative agreement awarded to Temple University with a subcontract to the Center for Policy Research in Denver, CO. The FRPN pursued three main goals...

The purpose of the Youth Education and Relationship Services (YEARS) Project, awarded to Child Trends, was to better understand the services that federally-funded Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (HMRE) programs are providing to youth. The project described the organizations implementing HMRE programs...

Many human services programs are designed such that individuals must make a series of decisions and take a number of active steps in order to realize a benefit. From deciding which programs to apply for, to completing forms, attending meetings, showing proof of eligibility, and arranging travel and child care, program designers often assume that individuals make decisions about how to proceed based on careful consideration of their options and best interests.

There is great interest in identifying effective strategies that build fathers’ capacity to support their children, both emotionally and financially. Since 2006, Congress has provided funds for discretionary grants to programs aimed at supporting fathers in three core areas: responsible parenting, economic stability, and healthy marriage.

The purpose of the Building Usage, Improvement, and Learning with Data in Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs (BUILD HMRF) project is to foster high quality data collection, support continuous quality improvement efforts, and develop the capacity for performance monitoring and reporting.

The National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families leads and supports investigation of the needs of Hispanic populations served by ACF and of promising approaches to promote social and economic well-being among low-income Hispanic families. The Center’s research focuses on early care and education; poverty reduction and economic self-sufficiency; and fatherhood, family structure, and family dynamics. In addition to generating new research to inform ACF programs and policies to better serve Hispanic children and families, the Center aims to build research capacity by providing tools, resources, and support for the research community and emerging scholars.

​​​​The Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis (CCEEPRA) Project is a contract to support the provision of expert consultation, assessment, and analysis in child care and early education policy and research to the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE), in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). The CCEEPRA project conducts various activities related to...

The Child and Family Data Archive (CFData) is the place to discover, access, and analyze data on young children, their families and communities, and the programs that serve them. OPRE funds numerous data collection efforts through research studies on a wide range of early care and education (ECE) topics within and across child care, Head Start, and home visiting.

Coparenting and Healthy Relationship and Marriage Education for Dads (CHaRMED) is a federal evaluation effort designed to...

OPRE’s family strengthening work includes research and evaluation projects related to strengthening relationships within families, supporting fatherhood, nurturing children through their families, reducing teen pregnancy and supporting youth in...

The Family Strengthening Scholars grant program is designed to build research capacity in the healthy marriage/responsible fatherhood field (HM/RF). These grants are to support dissertation research on HM/RF policy issues and are meant to build capacity in the research field to focus research on questions that have direct implications for HM/RF decision-making and program administration.

Investigate and summarize what the field of healthy marriage relationship education and responsible fatherhood programming have learned works, does not work, and where we should conduct further research.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services promotes the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. Many ACF programs interact with and serve fathers in an effort to promote economic self-sufficiency and social well-being for them and their families. Across ACF, we are implementing rigorous research and evaluation projects to better understand how to serve fathers and their families.

The purpose of the Fatherhood and Marriage Local Evaluation and Cross-Site Project is to support ACF’s third cohort (2015-2020) of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) grantees through...

In this project, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is exploring the application of Human-centered Design (HCD) across its service delivery programs at the federal, state, and local levels. To date, little is known regarding what HCD looks like in the context of human services, the requirements for implementation across a range of programs; the measurable outcomes and effectiveness of HCD approaches; the evaluability of HCD approaches; or the sustainability of HCD approaches.

Though significant evaluative work has been carried out to improve understanding of how human services programs meet their goals of improving family economic self-sufficiency, financial security, and overall wellbeing, there are gaps in knowledge of how programs can best serve rural communities. Rural contexts present unique opportunities and challenges for administering human services programs, and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) seeks to better understand these contexts through several programs, including the following...

The Marriage Strengthening Research and Dissemination Center (MAST Center) aims to support research and evaluation to help inform marriage and relationship education programming by:

  • Conducting research on marriage and romantic relationships in the U.S. and on the programs designed to strengthen these relationships to help identify critical research gaps and generate new knowledge to help programs more effectively serve individuals and families; and
  • Mentoring and supporting emerging scholars—students and early career professionals—to expand and strengthen the field of researchers studying relationships and families.

 

 

The Network of infant/toddler Researchers (NitR) consortium brings together leading applied researchers with policymakers and technical assistance providers responsible for overseeing and supporting early childhood programs serving families during pregnancy and the first three years of life.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) promotes the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. Several ACF programs interact with justice-involved and incarcerated parents and youth in an effort to promote economic self-sufficiency and social well-being for them and their families. We are implementing rigorous research and evaluation projects to better understand how to serve these parents and youth.

The Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) is one of multiple efforts at the Federal level to reduce teen pregnancy through the use of evidence-based programs. The goals of the PREP Evaluation are to document how programs funded through the State PREP program are implemented in the field and to assess selected PREP-funded programs’ effectiveness.

Explore Self-Regulation Training Approaches and Resources to Improve Staff Capacity for Implementing Healthy Marriage Programs for Youth (SARHM) for a report, draft measure for observing co-regulation, practitioner brief, and toolkit all focused on ways to build staff co-regulation to support healthy relationships in youth.

In 2013, OPRE commissioned four interrelated reports on self-regulation and toxic stress from a team at the Center for Child and Social Policy at Duke University. That team and other experts have since created multiple practice-oriented resources grounded in the initial reports. Together, these reports and resources comprise the ’Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Series.’ 

OPRE's STREAMS evaluation is a large multi-site random assignment impact and process evaluation of healthy marriage and relationship education programs serving adults and youth that is designed to answer multiple practice-relevant questions.

What is the focus of this study?

Strong, supportive families are critical to the health and well-being of children.  Since 2005, Congress has authorized federal funding for healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programs to encourage the formation of healthy relationships and stable, two-parent families. Administered by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the grants support programs that offer HMRE programming to couples, adult individuals, and youth.

Learn how the SIRF project is using rapid cycle evaluation to strengthen Responsible Fatherhood programs.

This brief summarizes the impact findings from three recent federal evaluations of programs serving disadvantaged noncustodial parents: the Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration (ETJD), the Parents and Children Together Demonstration (PACT), and the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED). It finds positive results on employment and earnings and parenting outcomes, but no impact on the amount of child support paid. It discusses possible explanations for this null effect and suggests that future research will want to further examine this issue.