Conventional wisdom, backed by years of research, suggests that healthy marriages equals a healthy society. And politicians and government officials have taken note, investing hundreds of millions of dollars each year in education programs designed to promote healthy marriages, focusing specifically on poor couples and couples of color. Is it working? No, says a Binghamton University researcher in a new study published in the current issue of American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association. And it’s because many of these programs were based on research data gathered from White and middle-class marriages, and when applied to poor couples or couples of color, just don’t work. “Initially, the rationale for these programs came from policy makers and scholars, who honed in on the association between unmarried parents and poverty that is plainly obvious in the data,” said Matthew D. Johnson, associate professor of psychology at Binghamton University. “This association led George W. Bush to make the promotion of healthy marriages a central plank of his domestic policy agenda, resulting in the implementation of the Healthy Marriage Initiatives. Barack Obama endorsed these initiatives, both as presidential candidate and as president. Now that the data on the success of these programs has started to roll in, the results have been very disappointing.”
So why the apparent disconnect between a seemingly good idea and disappointing program outcomes? Johnson says there are several possible explanations. The best of these programs — the ones based on scientific findings — were initially studied with middle-class couples while the federal initiatives target poor couples. And even if the research that formed the basis of these interventions does apply, relationship improvement just doesn’t seem to be a priority for poor couples.
“There is evidence that suggests poor women want to be married and understand the benefits of healthy marriages,” said Johnson. “But earning enough for basic household expenses, keeping their children safe and working with their children’s overburdened schools are much more urgent concerns, making the idea of focusing on marriage seeming self-indulgent if not irrelevant to many poor parents. When faced with a myriad of social issues, building intimate relationships is just not high on their priority lists.”
Taken form article Healthy marriage interventions: A boom or a bust? – Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 – 14:35 in Psychology & Sociology by Jonathan Cohen/Binghamton University.
Source: Binghamton University