The Brookings Institution, in cooperation with the Center for Fathers, Families, and Workforce Development in Baltimore and the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, held a forum on marriage education programs. This forum builds on research published in the Fall 2005 issue of The Future of Children, "Marriage and Child Wellbeing," published by Brookings and Princeton University. The forum featured staff who run marriage education programs in Baltimore and Oklahoma as well as couples who have participated in the two programs. Baltimore is one of the sites for the Building Strong Families research initiative sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative is known as one of the most comprehensive marriage programs in the nation.
Congress had been poised to authorize $100 million per year for programs to encourage marriage. Research shows that the rise of female-headed families—especially those created through non-marital births—is a major cause of child poverty. If marriage rates could be increased, poverty would decline and child well-being would be enhanced. But can marriage rates be increased? Most existing marriage education programs, with content differing from program to program, work with five to eight couples in weekly sessions that feature discussions and exercises to build trust, improve communication, create rules for resolving conflict and disagreement, and build competent parenting practices.
The forum discussed the content of several marriage education programs, from the perspectives of program operators, participants, and researchers.