The Initiative

The Alabama Healthy Marriage & Relationship Education Initiative, or “AHMREI,” (former name, Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, or “ACHMI”) has been funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Family Assistance for 18 years. The AHMREI consists of two related projects: the Alabama Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (AHMRE) Project focused on serving adult couples in the community and the Alabama Youth Relationship Education (AYRE) Project focused on serving youth in high schools.

The Alabama Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Initiative (AHMREI) is a large-scale partnership among Auburn University and 10 additional implementation partners at Family Resource Centers and community agencies. Additionally, referral partners include domestic violence prevention organizations, school systems, and Head Start centers.

Our needs in Alabama are wide-spread. Our citizens continue to face considerable challenges related to high rates of relationship and family instability and to economic strain. As citizens and professionals in a limited-resource state that has maintained one of the highest divorce rates (top 5 or 10 for 6 decades up through 2010) and one of the lowest composite rankings for children’s well-being in the country, we are highly motivated to continue to play a role in improving the quality of life in our state.

Bad relationships literally make us sick – mentally and physically. People know this – and now research has validated it. Basic research also provides us information on what sorts of things people do and think about that best predicts a healthy, long-lasting couple relationship – and a lot of this is teachable information. Our research focuses on bridging this research with practice and testing community-based relationship education for teens and adults and documenting whether this experience leads to better relationship skills, relationship quality, and health.

After 10 years of this work, with more than 61,000 people participating in classes, we have published evidence that the average teen and adult participant in a diverse group of Alabama citizens experiences benefits in their abilities to make healthy relationship decisions and to form and sustain healthy couple relationships. We have also documented that pre-school children have better social skills up to one year after their parents’ participation in a relationship education program. There also was a dramatic and uncharacteristic drop in the divorce rate in Alabama 3 years ago and we have remained below the top ten ranking each year since then. The long-term, multi-county initiative may have something to do with this.

For both the AHMRE and AYRE projects, in the next 5 years, we will test the comparative effectiveness of different program implementation models to understand how programs work best. We expect that different people may experience different levels of benefit, depending on how the information is taught. We also expect that different aspects of the program experience may affect program outcomes. The results of this phase of our research will better inform practitioners – in Alabama and around the country – about how to design programs for more diverse audiences and how to match program design to participant. We are on a path that is fine-tuning “prescriptions” for offering relationship education in our communities that will empower individuals of all ages and backgrounds with knowledge and skills for improving their “relational health.” This will in turn benefit their physical and mental health and contribute to strengthening communities.

Project Documents

Infographic

See more about our history from 2002 to 2020, visualized.

Executive Summary

Read an overview of our work during the 2015-2020 project funding cycle.

Evaluation Report

Read a report on our work during the 2015-2020 project funding cycle.

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