Double-digit unemployment, the second highest foreclosure rate in the nation, and a host of other stressors are taking a toll on South Florida families. According to a recent survey of 493 parents of school age children, seven in ten were considering separation or divorce in 2009.
The survey conducted by the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation in Weston, Florida included 204 men and 289 women living in South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties). Seventy one percent of respondents were Hispanic/Latino, 14 percent Black, and 13 percent White. At the time of the survey, 85 percent were married, eight percent engaged or considering marriage, and three percent separated or considering separation. Six percent were expecting a child.
In response to the question, “How often do you discuss or have you considered divorce, separation, or terminating your relationship,” 30 percent responded “Never.”
After the survey, the group went through a nine-hour marriage education class to improve communication, emotional understanding, empathy, and conflict resolution.
Six months after the class, the percentage of respondents who reported never considering separation or divorce doubled to 60 percent.
Amanda Falciglia, PAIRS Foundation’s Research Director, said the results show that without effective intervention, increasing numbers of children in South Florida are likely to grow up in single-parent homes, with a significant impact on schools, neighborhoods, and greater need for taxpayer funded social services.
“Although the results of the initial survey are concerning, it’s reassuring to know couples can learn to strengthen their marriages and provide greater security, stability and resources to their children,” Falciglia said.
In 2006, PAIRS Foundation was awarded a multi-year, multi-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, to provide marriage education classes in South Florida. PAIRS CEO Seth Eisenberg said the federal grant has enabled the nonprofit to provide free and reduced cost classes to more than 5,000 people and conduct extensive research on the program’s impact. In the near future, he said, when the grant program ends, couples will have to personally foot the nearly $500 cost of the program.
“Even during times of stress, couples can learn to create and sustain joyful, loving relationships,” Eisenberg said.
PAIRS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is one of the nation’s oldest and leading providers of relationship skills training. A schedule of upcoming classes is available online at www.pairs.com.