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Promoting Positive Pathways for Youth and Emerging Adults to Healthy Marriages and Relationships: A Feasible Public Policy Agenda. Alan J. Hawkins, Ph.D. Brigham Young University Provo, Utah, USA hawkinsa@byu.edu Presentation to Utah FACS Association Conference , Nov. 5, 2011.

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Promoting Positive Pathways for Youth and Emerging Adults to Healthy Marriages and Relationships: A Feasible Public Policy Agenda

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Promoting positive pathways for youth and emerging adults to healthy marriages and relationships a feasible public policy agenda

Promoting Positive Pathways for Youth and Emerging Adults to Healthy Marriages and Relationships:A Feasible Public Policy Agenda

Alan J. Hawkins, Ph.D.Brigham Young UniversityProvo, Utah, USAhawkinsa@byu.eduPresentation to Utah FACS Association Conference, Nov. 5, 2011


The challenging path to healthy marriages and relationships

The Challenging Path to Healthy Marriages and Relationships

  • “Deinstitutionalization” of marriage

    • Institutional boundaries have shrunk

    • Society does not structure pathways to marriage

    • Fewer models of healthy marriages

  • Personal development & individual emotions at core of modern marriage

  • Marriage a diminishing “life script” that orders life for youth & emerging adults


Risk factors for forming sustaining healthy marriages

Risk Factors for Forming & Sustaining Healthy Marriages

  • Many sexual partners

  • Pre-engagement cohabitation

  • Pre-marital parenthood

  • Relationship violence


Should government get involved

Should Government Get Involved?

  • Public costs of marital breakdown & lack of marital formation are substantial

  • Societies have always helped structure pathways from youth to adulthood

  • Heartless to let youth & young adults struggle

    • Free societies  education about choices


A feasible public policy agenda

A Feasible Public Policy Agenda

  • School-based relationship literacy education for youth

  • Positive relationship formation education for emerging adults

  • Pre-marital education for engaged couples

  • Marriage enrichment for early married couples (and parenting education)

  • Divorce orientation education for individuals at the crossroads of divorce

  • Promote with media campaigns


Feasibility

Feasibility

  • Build on existing educational infrastructures

  • Voluntary educational services

  • Efficient preventative services

  • Use existing policy tools

  • Minimize need for legislation


Need to support coterminous economic and social policy

Need to support coterminous economic and social policy

Promote a social ecology in which marriages can take root and thrive:

  • Education policy

  • Employment policy

  • Substance abuse policy

  • Teen/unwanted pregnancy prevention policy

  • Domestic violence prevention policy

  • Responsible fatherhood policy


1 relationship literacy education for youth background

1. Relationship Literacy Education for Youth: Background

  • Elongated period of sexual and relationship exploration unconnected to marriage

  • Experienced high rates of family instability

  • Diminishing models of healthy marriages

  • Media saturates with misleading messages


1 relationship literacy education for youth what is it

1. Relationship Literacy Education for Youth: What Is It?

  • Beyond sex education

  • Relational and familial contexts of sexuality

  • Important skills for forming and sustaining healthy romantic relationships and marriages (problem solving/communication)

  • Knowledge about healthy relationships (including relationship violence)

  • Sexual partnering/cohabitation and marriage


1 relationship literacy education for youth is it effective

1. Relationship Literacy Education for Youth: Is It Effective?

  • Emerging, early evidence

  • Decrease faulty relationship beliefs

  • Improve communication skills

  • Increase positive relationship skills

  • Long-term outcome evaluations needed


1 relationship literacy education for youth delivery infrastructure

1. Relationship Literacy Education for Youth: Delivery Infrastructure

  • School-based curricula

    • Oklahoma: “Connections/PREP” (110,000+)

    • Utah: Financial Literacy + Relationship Literacy

    • Alabama: diverse students, well studied

  • Fund within normal educational channels

    • Enhance with additional, limited government funds


2 positive relationship formation for emerging adults background

2. Positive Relationship Formation for Emerging Adults: Background

  • Decade between high school graduation and marriage

  • Formation of more serious relationships

  • Sexual histories

  • Pre-marital parenthood

  • Relationship violence

  • Cohabitation not effective marital preparation


2 positive relationship formation for emerging adults what is it

2. Positive Relationship Formation for Emerging Adults: What Is It?

  • Positive trajectories to marriage

  • Commitment education

  • Sliding vs. Deciding

  • More healthy relationships skills & knowledge (including relationship violence issues)

  • Example: “Within My/Our Reach” (PREP-based)


2 positive relationship formation for emerging adults is it effective

2. Positive Relationship Formation for Emerging Adults: Is It Effective?

  • Early evidence

  • Increased intentionality

  • Healthy relationship knowledge

  • Improved communication skills

  • Long-term outcome evaluations needed


2 positive relationship formation for emerging adults delivery infrastructure

2. Positive Relationship Formation for Emerging Adults: Delivery Infrastructure

  • Social service agencies (serving disadvantaged young adults)

  • Community colleges/Universities

  • Web-based programs


3 pre marital education for engaged couples background

3. Pre-marital Education for Engaged Couples: Background

  • Timing: openness to relationship education

  • Only about 1/3 couples invest in formal pre-marital education

  • Half of marriages are remarriages

  • Cohabitation not effective preparation


3 pre marital education for engaged couples what is it

3. Pre-marital Education for Engaged Couples: What Is It?

  • Problem-solving & communication skills

  • Knowledge (e.g., finances, in-laws, household labor, etc.)

  • Personalized inventories of relationship

  • Religious doctrine on marriage (in religious settings)


3 pre marital education for engaged couples is it effective

3. Pre-marital Education for Engaged Couples: Is It Effective?

  • Long tradition of research

  • Increased communication skills

  • Short-term divorce reduction

  • 10-15% engagement termination

  • Long-term outcome evaluations needed


3 pre marital education for engaged couples delivery infrastructure

3. Pre-marital Education for Engaged Couples: Delivery Infrastructure

  • Religious organizations

  • U.S. Cooperative Extension System

  • Promote with reduced marriage license fees

    • FL, GA, MD, MN, OK, SC, TN, TX

    • coming soon to Utah??


4 marital enrichment for early marriage couples background

4. Marital Enrichment for Early-Marriage Couples: Background

  • First 5 years highest risk for divorce

  • Higher risk for remarried couples

  • Transition to parenthood hard for some


4 marital enrichment for early marriage couples what is it

4. Marital Enrichment for Early-Marriage Couples: What Is It?

  • More problem-solving & communication skills

  • Remarriage issues/ special curricula

  • From partners to parents

  • Parenting education

    • Develop more emotional intelligence in children

    • Give them better foundation for future relationships


4 marital enrichment for early marriage couples is it effective

4. Marital Enrichment for Early-Marriage Couples: Is It Effective?

  • Long tradition of research

  • Increased communication skills

  • Increased relationship quality/satisfaction

  • Some evidence of divorce reduction

  • Stabilize relationship across transition to parenthood

  • Increased parenting skills

  • Increased father involvement


4 marital enrichment for early marriage couples delivery infrastructure

4. Marital Enrichment for Early-Marriage Couples: Delivery Infrastructure

  • Religious organizations

  • U.S. Cooperative Extension System

  • U.S. Head Start programs


5 divorce orientation education for couples on the brink background

5. Divorce Orientation Education for Couples on the Brink: Background

Unnecessary divorce

  • Half of divorces come from low-conflict marriages; adults and children from these divorces do worse

  • Divorce often increases conflict

  • Divorce not reliable path to happiness

  • Unhappy marriages usually become happy

  • 10% couples (30% individuals) indicate desire for reconciliation at last legal stage of divorce


5 divorce orientation education for couples on the brink what is it

5. Divorce Orientation Education for Couples on the Brink: What Is It?

  • Research-based impacts of divorce for children and adults

  • Reconciliation possibility

  • Reconciliation resources

  • Divorce resources

  • Legal options (value of mediation, collaborative law)

  • Co-parenting education, plans

  • Utah: mandated divorce orientation education (but implementation problems)


5 divorce orientation education for couples on the brink is it effective

5. Divorce Orientation Education for Couples on the Brink: Is It Effective?

  • No research yet on divorce orientation education

  • Quickly recover costs

  • Evidence for divorcing parenting education

    • Reduced co-parenting conflict

    • Positive parental discipline

    • Child well-being (parental reports)

    • Positive effects even for court-mandated programs


5 divorce orientation education for couples on the brink delivery infrastructure

5. Divorce Orientation Education for Couples on the Brink: Delivery Infrastructure

  • Mandated divorcing parents education (modify to include reconciliation considerations)

  • Faith-based organizations


6 promote with media campaigns

6. Promote with Media Campaigns

  • Increase awareness and openness to educational services

    • California Healthy Marriage Coalition

    • Utah Healthy Marriage Initiative

    • National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

    • First Things First (Chattanooga, Tennessee)


Recommended resources

Recommended Resources

  • Christian Smith and colleagues. (2011). Lost in Transition.

  • Mark Regnerus & Jeremy Uecker (2010). Premarital Sex in America.

  • Andrew Cherlin. (2009). The Marriage-Go-Round.

  • Dibble Institute: Resources for Teaching Relationship Skills to Teens (www.dibbleinstitute.org)

  • National Marriage Project (www.virginia.edu/marriageproject)


Conclusion

Conclusion

  • Evidence that programmatic MRE can help . . .

  • Imagine: a series of MRE experiences from . . .

    • Parenting that builds children’s emotional intelligence

    • Adolescence . . .

    • Emerging adulthood . . .

    • Engagement . . .

    • Early marriage and transition to parenthood . . .

    • Crossroads of divorce “safety net”

  • Creating cultural change to counter strong historical forces towards the deinstitutionalization of marriage


Alan j hawkins ph d hawkinsa@byu edu

Thank You!Promoting Positive Pathways for Youth and Emerging Adults to Healthy Marriages and Relationships:A Feasible Public Policy Agenda

Alan J. Hawkins, Ph.D.hawkinsa@byu.edu


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