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History of the marriage field

A Timeline of the Milestones and Significant Events in the Marriage Field


The NHMRC would like to thank Andrea Lee of the Marriage CoMission for her contributions to this timeline.


1934 – Professor Ernest Groves, who was among the first academicians to give a course in marriage and the family in an established university, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, holds the first Groves Conference on Marriage and Family.


1938 -- National Council of Family Relations (NCFR) established.


1942 – American Association of Marriage Counselors established, which later becomes The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.


1946 – Catholic Church begins a marriage preparation program in the Archdiocese of Chicago.


1952 – Father Gabriel Calvo begins developing a series of conferences for Catholic married couples in Spain, which becomes World Wide Marriage Encounter. By 1971, this has spread throughout the United States and is open to couples of all religious backgrounds.


1962 – David and Vera Mace begin offering marriage retreats to couples in Pennsylvania. 


1965 – Senator Moynihan voices concern for the African American family in his report: “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”


1969 – California becomes the first state to legalize “No Fault Divorce.” 


1972 – Bernard Guerney, Jr., Ph.D. founds the Institute for the Development of Emotional and Life Skills (IDEALS) and begins offering Relationship Enhancement.


 1973 – David and Vera Mace found the Association for Couples in Marriage Enrichment (ACME).


1975 – Researchers begin to analyze marital distress; Howard Markman conducts foundational studies that become the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP).


1975 – Lori Gordon puts together a semester long course at American University which later becomes the Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills (PAIRS).


1980 – The divorce rate in the United States peaks.


1986 – Modesto, CA signs the first Community Marriage Policy; Marriage Savers  begins. 


1990 – PREP training first conducted with the U.S. Navy.


1990 – Ken Canfield founds the National Center for Fathering.


1992 – Vice President Dan Quayle delivers a speech criticizing the decline of marriage and family values that captures national attention.


1992 – John Gray publishes “Men are from Mars Women are from Venus” the number one best-selling book over the next decade.


1993 – Barbara Defoe Whitehead publishes “Dan Quayle was Right” in The Atlantic.


1994 – National Fatherhood Initiative starts.


1996 – President Clinton signs into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Public Law 104-193, better known as the welfare (TANF) reform act. It includes provisions for marriage strengthening. 


1996 – President Clinton signs into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). 


1996 – Diane Sollee founds the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, Smart Marriages. 


1996 – National Association of Marriage Enhancement (NAME) is founded.


1997:  First Smart Marriages Conference is held.


1997 – First Things First in Chattanooga, TN begins.


1997 – Louisiana becomes first state to offer covenant marriage.


1997 – Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth publish A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval, which shows that divorce can harm children more than low-conflict marriages.


1998 – Utah forms a statewide commission on marriage.


1998 – Florida becomes the first state to enact a pro-marriage high school curriculum.


1999 – Oklahoma Governor launches first statewide marriage initiative. 


1999 – National Marriage Project at Rutgers University releases its first “State of Our Unions” report. In 2009, it moves to the University of Virginia.


2000 – “The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially” by Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher is published.


2000 –   “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study” by Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis and Sandra Blakeslee is published.


2002 – Marriage rate lowest in U.S. history.


2002 – Marriage Week USA is launched.

2002 – The Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launches a national Healthy Marriage Initiative. and

2002:  ACF launches The Building Strong Families project.


2002 – Proposed legislation is first introduced in Congress to allocate Federal funds to marriage education and promotion as part of TANF.


2002 – Black Marriage Day launched.


2003 – Institute for American Values publishes “Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-Six Conclusions from Social Sciences.”


2003 – Marriage Commission founded.


2003 – The African American Healthy Marriage Initiative and the Hispanic Healthy Marriage Initiative are launched at ACF. and


2003 – ACF launches the Supporting Healthy Marriage project.


2004:  ACF establishes the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center.


2005 – Congress passes the Deficit Reduction Act that provides funding of $150 million each year for healthy marriage promotion and fatherhood. It is signed into law by President Bush in February, 2006.


2005 – Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas publish “Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage”


2006 – ACF awards grants to 226 organizations to promote healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood as authorized by the Deficit Reduction Act.


2006 – Kay Hymowitz publishes “Marriage and Caste in America:  Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age”


2006 – Elizabeth Marquardt publishes Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce, where she argues that there is no such thing as a good divorce, but, rather that it harms children for their entire lives. 


2009 – Paul R. Amato, Alan Booth, David R. Johnson and Stacy J. Rogers publish Alone Together: How Marriage in America is Changing, which shows that while the divorce rate has leveled off, spouses are spending less time together.


2010 – Building Strong Families first impact study is released: