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PAIR Project Case Studies

Why We Create Case Studies
What is the Case Study?
The Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative
Guide to Creating a Case Study


Most students of the social sciences are interested in how quantitative findings may - or may not - apply to each particular marriage. As a result, we have emphasized the case study as a primary tool in the many courses and projects that have been based on the PAIR Project. Over the years, we have established a series of guidelines to guarantee quality and standardization across case studies. These principles were formalized in 1994 with the Guide to Creating a Case Study. For a taste of the flavor of the case studies, visit the courtship narratives of those couples who were "briefly married" - - that is, they divorced before the third panel of our study in 1983.

Why We Create Case Studies

The insights derived from writing case studies has greatly increased our understanding as to why some relationships evolve toward a mutually satisfying union, while others head toward distress and/or the divorce court. The case studies serve as a tool for generating testable hypotheses about cause-and-effect relationships, and provide an inside look at elements that lead to the demise of couples' marriages. The hypotheses created by case studies can be tested using the larger PAIR Project sample.

We have had graduate students carry out a case study as a way of introducing them to the full scale of the project. It provides an opportunity to follow one couple through all of the project records and databases. We have also designed an undergraduate seminar for Plan II Honors students utilizing the case study. The class is designed to introduce students to the social psychology of courtship and marriage, and provide them with the opportunity to experience first-hand the excitement of carrying out field research. The course has proven useful for students who want to become better consumers of research, as well as those who might eventually be interested in premarital or marital counseling, or who are interested in becoming social scientists themselves.

To see an example of how we utilize the case study in class, visit our class website.

What is the "Case Study" in the PAIR Project?

A case study portrays a couple's life together from courtship into marriage using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. Since we see relationships as structured, in part, by the social, psychological, and physical qualities partners bring to them, the first step in creating the case study is to create one newlywed portrait of the husband and one of the wife. These portraits can then be connected to the nature of the relationship the couple creates at various stages of courtship and marriage. The next step is to assess the compatibility of the spouses, write about their courtship, and continue thus along the couple's marital path until their 1994 outcome. For more information about the components of the case study and how they are created, please see our Guide to Creating a Case Study.

The Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative

The starting point of each case study is the quantitative data about each individual, including the person's social characteristics and background, physical characteristics, personality, attitudes and values, and dating history.  Later, students add quantitative information about the meshing of husbands' and wives' background and personal qualities, courtship processes, marriage, parenthood and parental roles, and follow-up data. For some areas, we have additional qualitative data. For courtship, couples verbally recount the timeline of the development of their relationship. In terms of marriage, we have tapes of each partner's satisfaction with the domains of marriage. For parents we have tapes of satisfaction with child care and parent-child relationships.

For the case study, all the qualitative and quantitative data on a couple is reviewed and interconnected. Thus, for example, a wife may have egalitarian gender-role attitudes, while the husband has traditional preferences, such that he prefers his wife to do all the household tasks. Both spouses may speak of their reaction to this conflict when they discuss their satisfaction with houshold tasks.  The writer juxtaposes this information and tries to understand how these incongruent attitudes may affect the couple as a unit. 

For more information and examples of PAIR Project case studies, visit our Guide to Creating a Case Study.

The PAIR Project at the University of Texas at Austin
Principal Investigator, Ted L. Huston
Page last modified: 16 January 2002