New parents benefit from participating in family education program, study shows

URBANA, Ill. – The birth of a child is a major life transition, and it can be a stressful time for new parents. Family and relationship education programs are available to help individuals and couples deal with these challenges. But do such programs work as intended?

new study from the University of Illinois evaluated Family Expectations, a federally-funded parenting and couple enrichment program for expectant parents. The researchers found significant improvements in participants’ mental health, couple functioning, and parenting skills after completing the program.

Parents speaking

“In the last 20 years or so, there's been significant federal funding towards couple and relationship education. We wanted to learn if such programs are effective, in order to ensure we are making good use of the time and resources that are being devoted to them,” says Allen Barton, assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at U of I and lead author on the paper.

Family Expectations is a program for new and expectant parents based in Oklahoma City, funded through the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Program participants meet once a week for 12 weeks, starting in their second or third trimester of pregnancy.

“Family Expectations has had a large reach in terms of number of couples participating, but it is also important to evaluate impact, or change, in program participants,” Barton says.

Read more from the College of ACES

Photo: A group of new or expectant parents attend a session at the Family Expectations program in Oklahoma City. Photo courtesy of Family Expectations.