Improving Couples’ Relationship Functioning Leads to Improved Coparenting: A Randomized Controlled Trial With Rural African American Couples

Justin A. Lavner, Allen W. Barton, Steven R.H. Beach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Family-centered prevention programs for couples with children are being increasingly disseminated, with the hope that improving couples’ romantic relationships will lead to other benefits for families. To date, however, it is unclear whether these interventions do in fact yield these benefits. The current study addressed this gap by examining whether postintervention improvements in couples’ relationship functioning following family-centered prevention predicted longer-term change in coparenting, and whether postintervention improvements in coparenting predicted longer-term change in relationship functioning. We used four waves of data collected over 2 years from 346 rural African American couples with an early adolescent child who participated in a randomized controlled trial of the Protecting Strong African American Families (ProSAAF) program, an intervention designed to promote strong couple, coparenting, and parent–child relationships in two-parent African American families. Results indicated that ProSAAF had significant short-term positive effects on both romantic relationship functioning and coparenting and that these effects did not differ in magnitude. Over time, however, only romantic relationship functioning postintervention was positively associated with long-term changes in coparenting; coparenting postintervention was not associated with long-term changes in relationship functioning and this association was significantly weaker than the other pathway. These findings support a key premise underlying relationship enhancement programs for parents, indicating that improving couples’ romantic relationship functioning can have longer-term benefits for the coparenting relationship as well. Further research examining long-term parent, child, and family outcomes following family-centered prevention for couples and the mechanisms of change underlying these outcomes is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1016-1029
Number of pages14
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number6
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • African American couples
  • coparenting
  • prevention
  • relationship functioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Improving Couples’ Relationship Functioning Leads to Improved Coparenting: A Randomized Controlled Trial With Rural African American Couples'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this