New research highlights ‘significant gap’ in evidence about effectiveness of relationship education programs

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Educators should have not have “high”‘ confidence in the quality of existing relationship education programs, because there is a lack of robust evaluation, experts have warned.

The findings from a new systematic review of relationship education programs provide evidence there is a “significant gap” in high-quality research into the outcomes of such programs. This is despite links between healthy relationships and good mental health and well-being, and the recent formalization of a larger role for relationship education in statutory guidance in England.

Researchers reviewed 20 relationship programs. All but one were developed in the US and 11 had been evaluated. Only three had followed participants for a year or longer and many programs and evaluations did not appear to be co-developed or designed with . Many evaluations had examined attitudes towards marriage, divorce or collaboration, with negative attitudes to divorce and cohabitation framed as . This may reflect policy in some US states to reinforce traditional attitudes.

Evaluations that had taken place were not high quality, with a lack of randomization, unbalanced samples and high attrition rates over time.

This “Beacon: Healthy Relationship” study was carried out by Simon Benham-Clarke, Georgina Roberts and Tamsin Newlove-Delgado from the University of Exeter and Astrid Janssens from the University of Southern Denmark and Odense University Hospital. It builds on evidence from the Shackleton Relationships Project, which showed an appetite among young people for more education at school (which they help to develop) about how to build positive relationships and handle “normal” relationship difficulties.

Simon Benham-Clarke said, “Because of a lack of good quality evaluation we were not able to conclude that any of the programs have a strong evidence base in terms of their impact on relationships skills or healthy relationship outcomes, particularly over the longer term.

“There needs to be more robust trials of relationships education programs, with their impact to be followed up over a long-term period. There should be a set of core measures to assess programs which connect directly to the desired outcomes and priorities for young people.”

The study, in the journal Pastoral Care in Education, says to improve relationship outcomes for young people it is critical that they are fully engaged in the development of new programs and the evaluation of such programs. However, the team found no evidence of young people’s involvement in program or evaluation development.

Dr. Newlove-Delgado explained, “We worked with a great group of young people on this research project. Young people want their voices heard and want to contribute to what they learn about relationships in schools. Both young people and relationship experts see relationship as having an important role in promoting and well-being, particularly through learning to cope with relationship breakdowns. They also want to learn skills which could help them maintain happy and over the longer term.”

The review recommends that future programs are co-created with young people, teachers and experts, and integrated into a -informed curriculum and wider prevention programs in schools and communities. Programs should be evaluated over the longer term and assessed for feasibility and acceptability in and community settings.

More information:
Simon Benham-Clarke et al, Healthy relationship education programmes for young people: systematic review of outcomes, Pastoral Care in Education (2022). DOI: 10.1080/02643944.2022.2054024

New research highlights ‘significant gap’ in evidence about effectiveness of relationship education programs (2022, March 30)
retrieved 31 March 2022

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Prosecutors embrace a color-blind approach to prosecution, highlights need for cultural rescripting in prosecution

Hexbyte Glen Cove

A new study explored how prosecutors think about race in criminal justice, providing ideas of how to break the color-blind approach to prosecution that can entrench racial disparities. The study found that prosecutors broadly argue that race should not be considered when processing cases.

Conducted by a researcher at Florida International University (FIU), the study is forthcoming in the American Society of Criminology’s journal Criminology.

“Color-blindness is one piece of a very strong and cohesive prosecutorial culture,” says Rebecca Dunlea, an assistant professor of criminology and at FIU and the author of the study. “Getting prosecutors to see themselves as part of the solution to will require changing their views on how to approach , but it will probably also require that they reevaluate other core beliefs about how they do their work and achieve .”

Color-blindness does not address racial disparities, and may even worsen them by maintaining policies and practices that are facially race-neutral but disproportionately harm people of color. Some scholars argue that colorblindness in criminal justice has done more harm than good.

Based on interviews with 47 prosecutors from Jacksonville and Tampa, Florida, in 2018, the study found that they widely embraced a color-blind approach to processing cases. Interviewees consistently said they believed that the best way to handle these disparities was to not consider the race of defendants, victims, or witnesses when making case decisions.

Support for the color-blind approach was informal and widespread, the study found, with prosecutors saying they worked to appear race-neutral, denying the possibility of discrimination in their offices. Prosecutors of color appeared to support the color-blind approach as much as their White counterparts.

This color-blind approach is reinforced by other scripts deeply embedded in prosecutorial culture, such as “every case is unique,” “poverty and culture cause crime,” and “we only prosecute what the police bring to us,” the study found. All these seemingly race-neutral scripts are used by prosecutors to justify the rejection of their role in reforms that target racial disparities in criminal justice.

More information:
No Idea Whether He’s Black, White, or Purple”: Colorblindness and Cultural Scripting in Prosecution, Criminology (2021).

Provided by
American Society of Criminology

Prosecutors embrace a color-blind approach to prosecution, highlights need for cultural rescripting in

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