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Current Research Programs

Together Program

Free program for couples to promote healthy relationships and financial stability. Program is open for enrollment. For more information on TOGETHER, please visit

In 2016 Dr. Mariana Falconier received a grant totaling $7.2 million for a five-year project to promote healthy relationships and economic stability among low-income couples. The award, which is the largest to date to the university’s Department of Human Development and Family Science, has been granted by the federal Office of Family Assistance, Administration for Children and Families, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Titled “Together: A Couples’ Model to Enhance Relationships and Economic Stability,” the project plans include 720 couples in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County and Prince George's County in Maryland. The aim is to improve couples’ well-being, parenting, financial management, and employment and test the effectiveness of the program in a randomized control trial.

Experiences of Adopted and Fostered Individuals Project

Dr. Landers is leading this project in collaboration with First Nations Repatriation Institute (FNRI). In this project, Dr. Landers is analyzing secondary survey data from First Nations and White adults who were separated from their birth families during childhood by foster care and/or adoption. The project aims to explore the experiences of adopted and fostered individuals related to foster care, adoption, reunification or reconnecting with birth family, tribal connections, mental health, and wellness. At present, the research team is examining the process of reunification for First Nations adoptees who have reconnected with family members and tribe. Future areas of focus for the team include exploring the grief and adoption-related loss, as well as relationships with permanent and substitute caregivers.

First Nations Birthmother Study

Dr. Landers is carrying out this study In collaboration with First Nations Repatriation Institute (FNRI). The project aims to explore the experiences of First Nations birthmothers who have lost a child to foster care and/or adoption. In particular, the project focuses on the grief, loss, and mental health of First Nations birthmothers. The project is still in the formation stage, but the research team is gearing up to conduct qualitative interviews with First Nations birthmothers in the spring or summer of 2018. The team hopes to conduct in-depth interviews with approximately 10-20 First Nations birthmothers in the United States.

Meta-Analytic Reviews

Given the significant volume of research generated in the social sciences, systematic reviews are key to organizing and better understanding the social science literature.  Dr. Jackson is working on several meta-analytic studies to quantitatively organize the couple relationship outcome literature (i.e., factors that predict couple satisfaction and stability): premarital predictors, family of origin predictors, personality characteristics, and economic strain.  Other met-analysis projects Dr. Jackson is working on include couple relationship interactions as predictors of physical health, couple therapy treatment effectiveness, family therapy effectiveness for children, and adjustment of siblings of people with autism.

Empirically Supported Marriage & Family Therapy Treatments

It is estimated that 43.6 million adults (18.1%) in the U.S. have mental illness. Consequently, there is considerable attention being given to the development and implementation of empirically-validated mental health treatments. Legislation, federal funding, managed health care, and third-party reimbursement are becoming increasingly contingent upon the implementation of empirically validated therapy treatments that have demonstrated efficacy for the diagnosis being addressed. The American Psychological Association (APA) has established criteria for evaluating outcome research efficacy and designating empirically supported treatments (ESTs), the golden standard for outcome efficacy.  Although marriage and family therapy (MFT) has been established as an overall effective treatment modality, a greater understanding is needed of which specific MFT treatments are effective for specific diagnoses. Dr. Jackson is working with a team of graduate students to provide a comprehensive evaluative review of MFT treatments by specific diagnoses using EST criteria.