Connecting Families: A Relationship Enhancement Program

J., & Cherlin, A. (1991). The role of cohabitation in declining rates of
marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 53, (4), 913-927.
Carlson, M., & Furstenberg, F. (2003). Complex families: Documenting the prevalence and
correlates of multi-partnered fertility in the United States. Working Paper # 03-14-FF. Center for
Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University. Retrieved November 10, 2003 from
Carlson, M., Garfinkel, I., McLanahan, S., Mincy, R., & Primus, W. (2003). The effects of
welfare and child support policies on union formation. Working Paper #02-10-FF. Center for
Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University. Retrieved November 14, 2003 from Carlson.pdf.
Logan, T., Walker, R., Cole, J., Ratliff, S., & Leukefeld, C. (2003). Qualitative differences among
rural and urban intimate violence victimization experiences and consequences: A pilot study.
(2003). Journal of Family Violence, 18 (2), 83-92.
Manning, W. & Lamb, K. (2003). Adolescent well-being in cohabiting, married, and single -
parent families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65 (4), 876-893.
McGinnis, S. (2003). Cohabiting, dating, and perceived costs of marriage: A model of marriage
entry. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65 (1), 105-116.
Ooms, T. (2002). Strengthening couples and marriage in low-income communities. In A.
Hawkins, L. Wardle & D. Coolidge (Eds.), Revitalizing the Institution of Marriage for the
Twenty-First Century (pp.79-99). Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers.
Osborne, C. (2003). Differences in mothering behaviors in stable and unstable families. Working
Paper # 03-08-FF. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University. Retrieved
November 14, 2003 from
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Changing American Family 60 2004
Osborne, C., McLanahan, S., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2003). Is there an advantage to being born to
married versus cohabiting parents? Differences in child behavior. Working Paper 03-09-FF.
Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University. Retrieved November 10, 2003
Seltzer, J. (2000). Families formed outside of marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62 (4),
Sigle-Rushton, W., & McLanahan, S. (2003). For richer or poorer?: Marriage as an antipoverty
strategy in the United States. Working Paper # 01-17-FF. Center for Research on Child
Wellbeing, Princeton University. Retrieved November 10, 2003 from http://crcw.princeton.eduworkingpapers-
U. S. Bureau of Census. (1999). Unmarried-couple household, by presence of children. 1960 to
present. Retrived November 10, 2003 from
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Who are “Fragile Families?” 61 2004
Who Are “Fragile Families?”
Fragile families is a term used to describe most typically unmarried parents and their
children. These families are at greater risk of living in poverty and of family dissolution
than are married families. Most often in these families the parents are living together or
have close relationships with the father living in a separate household.
The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study collected data about parents, their
relationship to each other and the well-being of the ir children. In the longitudinal study
about 5000 children and their parents who were most typically unmarried and in their
twenties reported about the quality of their relationship, their expectations to marry and
reasons for not marrying. It has provided much insight into the reality of these families
lives. The study tells us that:
· Unwed parents are strongly connected to each other and to their children at the
time of the child’s birth.
· Most of the unwed parents are poorly equipped to support themselves and their
children. They lack education, work experience and family support to obtain and
retain work.
· Unmarried parents are younger and much more likely to already have children
with more than one partner than married parents.
· Employment, education and relationship quality affect the stability of these
families and their plans to marry.
o Men viewed employment as an essential element for a successful
o The higher a woman’s educational level the likelihood she is to maintain a
stable relationship.
o Pro-marriage attitudes increase the chance of marriage while the women’s
distrust of men has a negative effect.
o The quality of the couples’ relationship has a greater effect on decision to
marriage than employment.
o Women viewed cohabitation as a safe relationship that provided them
control over their lives and their children’s lives.
These couples had high hopes and expectations for marriage yet they created barriers to
marrying. The most significant was that they considered marriage as a long-term goal
that was achievable when other short-term goals had been accomplished. The two major
short-term goals were financial stability and relationship quality. Financial stability often
included being able to afford a home and being debt free. Marriage was viewed as the
crowning achievement after other goals had been accomplished.
Parke, M. (2004). Who are “fragile families’ and what do we know about them? Washington D.C.: Center
for Law and Social Policy.
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Domestic Violence’s Effect on Marriage 62 2004
Domestic Violence’s Effect on Marriage
The focus on marriage by welfare reauthorization has unique demands within the
population that it is targeting. For marriage to benefit both the adults and children
involved, research indicates that the relationship needs to be nonconflictual. That is it
needs to not just be two parents but that these individuals provide a stable low-conflict
family unit.
Abuse whether it is physical, sexual, psychological, or sabotage is higher in low-income
populations, especially for younger women (Lawrence, 2002). Black couples report the
highest rates of abuse, followed by Hispanic couples and lastly white couples (Cunradi,
Caetano, Schafer, 2002). Women living in rural areas report higher incidence of abuse
from their partners (Logan, Walker, Cole, Ratliff, & Leukefeld, 2003). A strong link
between being poor and abuse exists. Living in a low-income context appears to make a
greater contribution to the probability of experiencing domestic violence than education
or employment status (Cunradi, Caetano, Schafer, 2002). As high as 52 percent of the
women receiving welfare support have reported being abused (Lyon, 2002). Adult
domestic violence appears to be linked with child abuse with abuser’s taking advantage
of both the mother and children (Lawrence, 2002).
Domestic violence has a clear impact on the quality and stability of marriage. Abuse also
has many impacts upon the decision to marry. Women who have experienced abuse in
childhood are less likely to remain in sustained stable relationships (Bloom, 2004).
Women who have been abused as an adult are less likely to marry or cohabitate (Bloom,
2004). Once married, abuse, especially physical violence, is a significant deterrent to
couples staying together (Fertig, McLanahan, & Garfinkel, 2002). Domestic abuse is a
barrier to the formation of healthy marriages among the poor.
Among the poor, domestic violence takes its toll not only on adult individual
relationships, but also on children. A parent’s