Barb Devaney, Ph.D./Mathematica Policy Research

BSF Study Co-Principal Investigator

Summary: 15-Month Impacts of Family Expectations

The report addresses two primary research questions about Family Expectations and its effects on parent, family, and child outcomes:

1. What services are received? Do couples enrolled in Family Expectations (FE) attend and complete the relationship skills education sessions? Do family coordinators meet regularly with enrolled couples and what family support services are received? How does the extent of services received by FE couples compare with what control couples receive?

2. What is the impact of BSF on parents’ relationships, family outcomes, and child well-being? Does BSF work better for some couples than for others? In Oklahoma, at least one parent in 877 couples (87 percent of all couples) responded to the 15-month survey. Eighty-two percent of mothers and 73 percent of fathers responded to the 15-month survey. Impact analyses utilize baseline data and responses to the 15-month survey.

Findings presented below are all statistically significant unless otherwise noted.

  • Family Expectations (FE) couples received significantly more relationship skills education than couples in the control group.
  • More FE parents attended group sessions (76% vs. 24%) and for more hours (20 vs. 2).
  • More FE parents received individual support on relationships (39% vs. 17%) and for more hours (3 vs. 1).
  • Oklahoma program had consistent positive effects on couples’ relationship status and quality.
  • FE increased the likelihood that couples remained romantically involved (82% of FE couples vs. 76% of control couples).
  • FE did not significantly affect how many couples still lived together at the 15-month follow-up (70% vs. 66%) or marriage rates (25% in both groups).

The impact analysis examined four primary measures of relationship quality: (1) relationship happiness; (2) support and affection; (3) use of constructive conflict behaviors; and (4) avoidance of destructive conflict behaviors.

FE significantly improved all these dimensions of relationship quality:

  • Relationship happiness (8.49 vs. 8.18 on 1-10 scale);
  • Support and affection (3.50 vs. 3.43 on 1-4 scale);
  • Use of constructive conflict behaviors (3.33 vs. 3.22 on 1-4 scale); and Avoidance of destructive conflict behaviors (2.80 vs. 2.71 on 1-4 scale).
  • More FE couples reported remaining faithful (82% of FE couples vs. 77% of control couples).
  • Reports of severe assaults were not significantly different between FE mothers/fathers and control group members (90% and 87% percent of mothers reported no severe assaults; 92% and 91% of fathers report no severe assaults).
  • Family Expectations improved the co-parenting relationship and led to increases in the proportion of fathers living with and supporting their child.
  • The co-parenting scale is measured on a 1-to-5 strongly-disagree-to-strongly-agree scale and is based on 10 items drawn from the Parenting Alliance Inventory including questions such as “(other parent) and I communicate well about (our child).”
  • FE couples had significantly higher scores on the co-parenting scale than control group couples (4.43 vs. 4.36).

FE did not affect other measures of parenting by mothers or fathers in the groups – the following are not significant:

  • Mother’s level of cognitive and social play (5.10 vs. 5.05 on 1-6 scale);
  • Mother’s frequency of spanking in previous month (11.1% vs. 11.4%);
  • Mother’s parenting stress and aggravation (3.53 vs. 3.49 on 1-4 scale);
  • Father’s level of cognitive and social play (4.70 vs. 4.68 on 1-6 scale);
  • Father’s frequency of spanking in previous month (9.6% vs. 8.6%);
  • Father’s parenting stress and aggravation (3.52 vs. 3.54 on 1-4 scale).
  • Fathers in FE couples were more likely than control group fathers to live with their child (71% vs. 66%).
  • More FE mothers reported that fathers provided at least half the costs of raising the child than did control group mothers (80% vs. 72%).
  • The percentage of fathers who spent at least an hour per day or more with the child was the same for the two groups (69% in both groups).
  • Family Expectations reduced depressive symptoms of mothers and family receipt of TANF/food stamps but did not affect other measures of economic outcomes.
  • FE mothers experienced fewer depressive symptoms, as measured by the 12-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) (4.52 vs. 5.95); there was no significant difference between FE and control group fathers (4.01 vs. 3.99).

Family Expectations had stronger impacts for African American couples, for couples with low levels of relationship quality at the time of applying to FE, and for couples in which one or both members did not have a high school degree.

Impacts Summarized:
13 Positive Impacts of Family Expectations