Greetings and welcome to this very special issue of The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues on relationship and marriage education. As National Program Leader for Family Science Research and Extension at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (USDA/CSREES), I have the privilege of serving as a federal partner to family and human development faculty and educators throughout the Land-Grant University and Cooperative Extension System. Many of these scholars have dedicated their professional careers to enhancing quality of life for the people of this nation through effective research and practice in relationship and marriage education.
Relationship and marriage education helps couples and those who have chosen marriage for themselves to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain healthy relationships. Relationship education has been ongoing in land-grant and Extension outreach efforts for decades. This work is supported by sound research on the many individual, family, and community benefits of outreach and support that enhances physical and emotional health, parenting and child outcomes, workforce productivity, and economic stability.
In this issue of The Forum, Adler-Baeder, Shirer, and Bradford outline the extensive research base for engaged scholarship in this area by documenting the link between healthy couple relationships and healthy, stable marriages with individual, family, community, and societal well-being. Higginbotham, Henderson, and Adler-Baeder discuss how research in relationship and marriage education has informed practice; Shoup Olsen and Shirer discuss challenges and opportunities in community level program implementation; and Futris provides a context for building community capacity to support and sustain healthy relationships. Kerplemen shares what relationship and marriage education programs can mean to youth; Adler-Baeder, Erickson, and Higginbotham address the unique qualities of programs for couples functioning in a stepfamily; and Skogrand and Shirer provide various perspectives on understanding diversity and culture in family development and resource access. Goddard and Wiley detail more content-specific programming that can help couples build competency, commitment, and communication skills.
I encourage you to read through and reflect on the articles in this issue and to further explore the systematic and ongoing scholarship and engagement in relationship and marriage education by land-grant and Extension faculty. Noted author Stephen Covey once said that if we as a society work diligently in every other area of life and neglect the family, it would be analogous to straightening deck chairs on the Titanic. Land-grant universities and the Cooperative Extension Service have long worked to enhance the quality of family life. Through current efforts in relationship and marriage education, this rich tradition continues.
Caroline E. Crocoll, Ph.D., CFLE, CFCS, NCC
National Program Leader - Family Science Research and Extension
Families, 4-H and Nutrition