Building Strong Families: Using Research to Develop Programs
Barbara Devaney, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
Marcia J. Carlson, Columbia University
The Building Strong Families (BSF) program aims to foster the development of programs designed to enhance children's wellbeing by helping new unmarried parents build stronger relationships and achieve a healthy marriage if they so choose. The motivations and design of BSF programs draw heavily on findings about unmarried parents from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. This paper summarizes findings from that study about the characteristics and relationship patterns of unwed parents and discusses the implications for BSF programs. Three main implications of the Fragile Families findings for BSF program design are: (1) programs can build on the high hopes and affection in many unmarried parents' relationships; (2) programs need to recognize the economic needs of parents; and (3) the intervention must address issues of distrust and fidelity, along with the high relational "bar" unmarried parents set for marriage.