Why the Healthy Marriage Initiative Doesn’t Work

Wedding ringsGeorge W. Bush created the Healthy Marriage Initiative based on research showing that healthy, strong marriages make a positive contribution to communities. The program, funded by the federal government, was designed to help unwed parents living in socioeconomically deprived neighborhoods reap the benefits of marriage. Most of the targeted families were minorities and faced challenges with keeping and maintaining employment, adequate housing, and earning enough income to supply the basic needs of their families. They also dealt with crime and safety issues. The government believed that this vulnerable group was the most in need of programs designed to help couples develop healthy marriages. The program was implemented during Bush’s administration and fully supported by Obama when he became President.

It is only recently, however, that the results of this program are coming to light and being fully analyzed. And, as outlined in a recent article, they are not encouraging. According to data gathered by Matthew D. Johnson, an associate professor of psychology at Binghamton University, the programs were based on scant research from higher income, nonminority couples. Johnson reviewed assessments from thousands of couples who participated in the program and discovered that the framework, which was based on individuals from different socioeconomic environments with fewer challenges, did not provide a relevant foundation from which minority couples could build a strong marriage. The couples that need the Healthy Marriage Initiative most do not consider marriage more important than finding employment, meeting basic needs, and ensuring the safety of their families. “When faced with a myriad of social issues, building intimate relationships is just not high on their priority lists,” says Johnson.

The Healthy Marriage Initiative costs slightly more than $9,000 per couple to implement and has become more of a burden, both economically and socially, to the very communities that it was designed to help. Johnson believes that the intention behind the program was the right one but that the whole initiative needs to be restructured in order to achieve positive results. Specifically, Johnson believes that the program should be fully examined and reformatted based on accurate research, and if it still cannot meet target goals, it should be eliminated altogether.

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  • leigh

    May 31st, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    Again, this is another way of having government stick their nose in where it doesn’t belong

  • Zendra

    June 1st, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    What makes you believe that marriage is not as high on the priority list for minorities as it would be for others? Just because the numbers may not reflect that, I can assure you, that as a minority female, yes, marriage is important to me as it is to other members of my family as well. The problem is that marriage is no longer valued as a whole. We no longer place a premium on children coming from a two parent home and it is deemed acceptable for women to continue to have marriage out of wedlock (they get govt benefits, so isn’t that saying it’s ok?) or even for gay families to adopt children. We have lost that morality and standard of ethics that we once had, so when that is lost, then of course marriage is just another thing that will fall apart.

  • MaryJo

    June 1st, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    That sure is a lot of money for communities to spend, and these probably communities that did not have this kind of money to spend or waste in their first place.
    Just for once I would actually like to see a program like this that most of us thought was a good idea, a good use of money, and that was actually successful in the end.
    I am no longer sure that this is a possibility!

  • Joseph

    June 2nd, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    The biggest issue that pops out at me is that more often than not, the couples who would need this kind of support won’t seek it out in the first place.

    You know you always see those couples, who you know would benefit, but they’re not into asking for it.

    Even in church, where pastors have those kind of support classes, people still hesitate to get involved in it because they are too afraid of airing their dirty laundry in public.

  • NicEl

    June 4th, 2012 at 4:16 AM

    Perhaps if married couples were more invested in their marriages then the other social issues that they face would resolve themselves a little more easily. Just a thought.

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