Connections: Relationships and Marriage (Connections) is a high school marriage education curriculum designed to teach students how to develop healthy relationships and marriages. This study evaluated the effectiveness of this curriculum over 4-years postintervention with a matched set of 72 high school students who were in either the Connections group or a control group. Findings suggest that although most of the immediate impacts of the curriculum fade within 4 years after the curriculum, the Connections group shows an increase in self-esteem, a decrease in dating and relationship violence, and an increase in family cohesion over 4 years. Implications for further development of such curricula are discussed as well as implications for practitioners.
Key Words: education, marriage, preparation, youth relationships.
Overview of Effective Youth Relationship Education Curricula
A few youth relationship education programs have now been evaluated and show promise in terms of their effectiveness. For example, in the evaluation of The Loving Well Project, which focuses specifically on reducing sexual risk taking in relationships, Kreitzer (1992) found that of the eigth-grade students who identified themselves as virgins at the beginning of the school year, only 8% of participants reported that they had sex during that year compared to 28% in the control group. In the evaluation of the Love U2: Relationship Smarts program, which used an adapted curriculum with 340 low-income and racially diverse high school students, Adler-Baeder, Kerpelman, Schramm, Higginbotham, and Paulk (2007) found that students improved in their ability to identify unhealthy relationship patterns, increased their realistic beliefs about relationships and marriage, and decreased their use of verbally aggressive conflict tactics in their dating relationships.
The focal point of the current project is the Connections: Relationships and Marriage curriculum, which was first evaluated by Gardner (2001). …