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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
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New Beginnings for children of divorce

Public Health & Prevention: Home- or Family-based
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2019.  Literature review updated July 2018.
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The New Beginnings program aims to prevent adjustment problems for children whose parents have recently divorced. Parents attend group sessions in an outpatient setting to learn about problem-solving, discipline strategies, and other topics. Some programs also provide individual parent sessions, or both individual parent sessions and group therapy sessions for children. Programs served families with children who were nine-years-old, on average. Weekly group sessions were provided for 10 or 11 weeks. On average, families received 17 hours of therapist time.
BENEFIT-COST
META-ANALYSIS
CITATIONS
The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2018). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $66 Benefits minus costs ($856)
Participants ($871) Benefit to cost ratio ($0.14)
Others $875 Chance the program will produce
Indirect ($174) benefits greater than the costs 49 %
Total benefits ($104)
Net program cost ($751)
Benefits minus cost ($856)
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Benefits from changes to:1 Benefits to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Crime $362 $0 $829 $181 $1,372
K-12 grade repetition $1 $0 $0 $0 $1
K-12 special education $30 $0 $0 $15 $45
Labor market earnings associated with problem alcohol use ($376) ($883) $0 $0 ($1,260)
Property loss associated with problem alcohol use $0 ($2) ($4) $0 ($7)
Health care associated with problem alcohol use ($29) ($5) ($32) ($15) ($82)
Health care associated with externalizing behavior symptoms $80 $23 $83 $40 $226
Mortality associated with problem alcohol ($1) ($3) $0 ($20) ($24)
Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($376) ($376)
Totals $66 ($871) $875 ($174) ($104)
Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $817 2015 Present value of net program costs (in 2018 dollars) ($751)
Comparison costs $101 2015 Cost range (+ or -) 20 %
In studies included in this analysis, participants received an average of 17 hours of therapist time. Per-participant cost estimates are based on weighted average therapist time, as reported in the studies. Hourly therapist cost is based on the actuarial estimates of reimbursement by modality (Mercer. (2016). Mental health and substance use disorder services data book for the state of Washington). Comparison group costs are based on weighted average estimates reflecting the cost of materials or therapist time provided to participants, as described in the included studies.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Estimated Cumulative Net Benefits Over Time (Non-Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in non-discounted dollars to simplify the “break-even” point from a budgeting perspective. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
Alcohol use^ 9 1 134 0.057 0.471 24 n/a n/a n/a 0.150 0.750
Cannabis use^ 9 1 134 -0.073 0.471 24 n/a n/a n/a -0.192 0.683
Crime 9 1 126 -0.059 0.248 24 -0.059 0.248 34 -0.155 0.531
Externalizing behavior symptoms 9 3 321 -0.042 0.091 9 -0.023 0.056 12 -0.123 0.234
Illicit drug use before end of high school 9 2 150 -0.041 0.168 15 -0.041 0.168 18 -0.107 0.524
Internalizing symptoms 9 3 321 -0.025 0.091 9 -0.025 0.091 11 -0.066 0.472
Problem alcohol use 9 1 134 0.055 0.471 24 0.055 0.471 34 0.144 0.760
Substance use^ 9 1 134 -0.126 0.471 24 n/a n/a n/a -0.333 0.481

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Herman, P.M., Mahrer, N.E., Wolchik, S.A., Porter, M.M., Jones, S., & Sandler, I.N. (2015). Cost-benefit analysis of a preventive intervention for divorced families: Reduction in mental health and justice system service use costs 15 years later. Prevention Science, 16(4), 586-596.

Sandler, I., Gunn, H., Mazza, G., Tein, J.Y., Wolchik, S., Berkel, C., . . . Porter, M. (2018). Effects of a program to promote high quality parenting by divorced and separated fathers. Prevention Science, 19(4), 538-548.

Wolchik, S.A., Sandler, I.N., Millsap, R.E., Plummer, B.A., Greene, S.M., Anderson, E.R., . . . Weiss, L., (2002). Six-year follow-up of preventive interventions for children of divorce: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 288 (15), 1874-81.

Wolchik, S.A., Sandler, I.N., Tein, J.-Y., Mahrer, N.E., Millsap, R.E., Winslow, . . . Reed, A. (2013). Fifteen-year follow-up of a randomized trial of a preventive intervention for divorced families: Effects on mental health and substance use outcomes in young adulthood. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(4), 660-73.

Wolchik, S.A., West, S.G., Sandler, I.N., Tein, J.Y., Coatsworth, D., Lengua, L., . . . Griffin, W.A. (2000). An experimental evaluation of theory-based mother and mother–child programs for children of divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(5), 843.