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Guide to Scales and Their Construction


About the Guide to Scales
Example Documentation: Relationship Questionnaire
Description of Scale
Scale Construction Process
Characteristics of Scale
Relevant Literature
PAIR Papers Using the Scale

About the PAIR Project's Guide to Scales

The Guide to Scales and Their Construction provides vital information about each measure used in the PAIR Project. Each measure is documented with the following types of information:

1. Description of the scale: Provides a verbal description of the contents of the scale in a form that would be appropriate for a journal article; for new scales, this should include a theoretical argument for the scale (e.g., what does it measure, why was it needed, how were questions constructed).

2. Scale Construction Process: The basic procedure followed in developing the scale, as well as any adaptations used at various phases. If the scale has subscales, a table including the variables making up each subscales should be included.

3. Characteristics of the Scale: Relevant descriptive statistics for the scale (e.g., range of scores, mean) as well as reliability and validity statistics (e.g., alpha, stability coefficients, intercorrelation matrix of subscales).

4. Relevant Literature: Citations to the relevant literature on the measure; this includes citations provided earlier in the document as well as other literature bearing on the scale.

5. PAIR Project Articles Using the Scale: Citations to PAIR Project articles/papers that have used the scale.

6. Appendix: Include copies of the measure in all its forms and computer printouts in which the construction process and characteristics of the scale are documented.


Example Documentation: Relationship Questionnaire (Braiker & Kelley, 1979)

Description of Scale

The following description of the Relationship Questionnaire appears in Kelley, Huston, & Cate, 1985:

"In terms of the relevant premarital predictor variables, we sought to examine several dimensions that have been found to describe and differentiate premarital relationships and their changes as partners become more committed to marriage. These dimensions were derived by Braiker & Kelley (1979), who developed a pool of items based on newlyweds' retrospective reports about their courtships. After having couples characterize their premarital relationship (at several levels of involvement, beginning with 'casual involvement') in terms of each of the items, Braiker & Kelley (1979) subjected the data to a factor analysis. They derived four dimensions: (1) love for the partner, (2) conflict and negativity, (3) ambivalence about whether to continue the relationship, and (4) maintenance activities (which include self-disclosure, efforts to solve problems, and attempts by partners to change themselves). Braiker & Kelley (1979) found that these four dimensions provide a good window into relationships as they changed over the course of courtship and into the early period of marriage. Consequently, we reasoned that these particular dimensions might be predictive of the ways in which marital relationship evolve out of courtship."

"Moreover, these four dimensions have been identified by both laypersons and social scientists as being related in important ways to the extent to which courting partners are satisfied with the subsequent marriage relationships. Lay persons often assume that the more "in love" dating partners are, the higher is the likelihood that they will be happy, should they marry (Hunt, 1959). Ambivalence or indecisiveness about whether to continue a premarital relationship, on the other hand, has been thought to have the reverse implication. Clinicians and researchers have focused considerable attention of the partners' abilities to solve problems and talk things out (e.g., maintenance) as important to the success of relationships (e.g., Snyder, 1979); in contrast, conflict and negative exchanges are generally seen as tied with the emergence of dissatisfaction (e.g. Birchler, et al., 1975)."

It is also important to note that although the subscales are named with terms that are familiar to a lay audience, the subscales may or may not be the same as one's "naive" notions of those terms. Thus, one should also consider the following descriptions of the subscales (again, from Kelley, Huston, and Cate):

  • Love: Feelings of belonging, closeness, and attachment (Sample item: "To what extent did you have a sense of belonging with your partner?"). McHale & Huston (1985) note that most of the love items were derived from Rubin's (1970) measure of romantic love.
  • Maintenance: Communication between partners designed to decrease dissatisfaction or increase satisfaction (Sample item: "How much did you tell your partner about what you wanted or needed from the relationship?")
  • Ambivalence: Feelings of confusion concerning the partner, anxiety about increasing commitment and loss of independence (Sample item: "How confused were you about your feelings toward your partner?"
  • Conflict - Negativity: The amount of overt conflict in the relationship (Sample item: "How often did you and your partner argue with one another?" )

Scale Construction Process

Modifications Prior to Data Collection. The original items of the scale were used in the PAIR Project. Items making up each subscale are noted in Table 1.

Phases 1 - 4. The Relationship Questionnaire was originally developed as a retrospective measure. The measure was, in fact, used as a retrospective measure to ask respondents about their relationships during courtship (this was done in the first phase). However, we also wanted to know how they felt currently about their relationships, so the directions were altered slightly to ask about the present situation. This "concurrent" version was used at Phases 1 through 4.

Special Phase 4 Modification. Since Phase 4 was a telephone interview rather than a face-to-face interview, small accommodations were necessary. For example, one adjustment was necessary because there are different responses to different items on the Relationship Questionnaire. On some questions, respondents are asked to respond with a "1" meaning "not at all" and a "9" meaning "very much." On other questions "1" means "very infrequently" and "9" means "very frequently." In all, there are eight different meanings to the numbers one through nine. This presented a problem because it would be time consuming and boring to the participant to read the labels for the numerical values for each question. Therefore, we sent each respondent a set of labels for each item that told them what the numbers meant on each particular question.

Post data collection development. The structure of this measure was dictated by the Braiker and Kelley (1979) article. Since this was an existing measure that had been used in its present form over several phases, we decided not to attempt to build different subscales. Confirmatory factor analysis was conducted using the identical techniques as Braiker and Kelley (1979) for all four phases of data collection. This involved a principle-components factor analysis with orthogonal (Varimax) rotation. Since four factors were predicted, the number of factors was constrained at four. Although the factor structure did not fully replicate, it was decided to maintain the original structure suggested by Braiker and Kelley (1979).

Characteristics of Scale

The variables used to compute the subscales are listed in Table 1. Descriptive statistics for husbands appear in Table 2 and for wives in Table 3. The values in the columns labeled "Pre" refer to the retrospective accounts of couples courtships. Stability coefficients and intercorrelations between husbands' and wives' reports are given in Table 4. Intercorrelations between the various subscales for husbands and wives at each phase are given in Table 5.

Table 1: Variables Used to Compute Subscales

  Variable Values Calculation of Subscale
Love (H/W)LOVE Higher scores = greater love Mean of BELONG, GIVE, FLLOVE, MUTUAL, UNIQUE, COMMIT, CLOSE, NEED, INTIM, ATTACH
Maintenance (H/W)MAIN Higher scores = more maintenance Mean of REVEAL, PBMSLV, METACM, CHGSLF, TELL
Ambivalence (H/W)AMBIV Higher scores = more ambivalence Mean of CONFUS, DEPEND, UNSURE, DEMAND, TRAP
Conflict/Negativity (H/W)CONNEG Higher scores = more conflict Mean of ARGUE, CHGPTR, RESENT, SERARG, COMNEG

Table 2: Alphas and Descriptive Statistics for Husbands at the premarital phase (Pre), newlywed phase (Ph1), after one year of marriage (Ph2), after two years of marriage (Ph3), and at the 13-year follow-up (Ph4).



Reliability (Alpha)

Descriptive Statistics

Pre

Ph1

Ph2

Ph3

Ph4

Mean

SD

Min

Max

Love .81 .78 .88 .91 .87 7.79 0.96 4.70 9.00
Maint. .76 .60 .69 .63 .72 5.50 1.44 2.40 8.60
Amb. .76 .73 .83 .76 .76 2.35 1.26 1.00 6.20
Confl. .74 .68 .76 .77 .75 3.68 1.40 1.00 7.20

Table 3: Alphas and Descriptive Statistics for Wives at the premarital phase (Pre), newlywed phase (Ph1), after one year of marriage (Ph2), after two years of marriage (Ph3), and at the 13-year follow-up (Ph4).



Reliability (Alpha)

Descriptive Statistics

Pre

Ph1

Ph2

Ph3

Ph4

Mean

SD

Min

Max

Love .84 .83 .82 .88 .90 7.81 1.15 4.20 9.00
Maint. .65 .52 .54 .61 .58 5.96 1.29 2.20 8.00
Ambiv. .75 .73 .81 .78 .79 2.17 1.30 1.00 7.00
Confl. .75 .73 .81 .78 .81 4.16 1.63 1.00 7.80

Table 4: Stability Coefficients and Husband/Wife Correlations

Husbands' stability coefficients are above the diagonals. Wives' stability coefficients are below the diagonals. Correlations between husbands' and wives' scores are along the shaded diagonals. Numbers in parentheses give the N for each correlation.
 

Newlywed

Married 1+ Years

Married 2+ Years

Married 13+ Years

Love
Newlywed .25** (168) .60** (144) .58** (126) .40** (94)
Married 1+ Years .47** (144) .34** (144) .74** (126) .52** (91)
Married 2+ Years .42** (126) .66** (126) .40** (126) .52** (82)
Married 13+ Years .29** (98) .41** (95) .50** (86) .37** (94)
 

Maintenance

Newlywed .36** (168) .65** (144) .59** (126) .34** (94)
Married 1+ Years .39** (144) .11 (144) .62** (126) .39** (91)
Married 2+ Years .45** (126) .47** (126) .31** (126) .34** (82)
Married 13+ Years .31** (98) .32** (95) .50** (86) .09 (94)
 

Ambivalence

Newlywed .24** (168) .64** (144) .62** (126) .31** (94)
Married 1+ Years .57** (144) .24** (144) .71** (126) .31** (91)
Married 2+ Years .42** (126) .64** (126) .29** (126) .40** (82)
Married 13+ Years .39** (98) .37** (95) .38** (86) .36** (94)
 

Conflict / Negativity

Newlywed .45** (168) .62** (144) .58** (126) .37** (94)
Married 1+ Years .58** (144) .48** (144) .68** (126) .44** (91)
Married 2+ Years .50** (126) .69** (126) .47** (126) .48** (82)
Married 13+ Years .45** (98) .39** (95) .47** (86) .62** (94)

Table 5. Correlations between Subscales
This large table is contained in a separate document.

Relevant Literature

Birchler, G.R., Weiss, R.L., & Vincent, J.P. (1975). Multimethod analysis of social reinforcement exchange between maritally distressed and nondistressed spouse and stranger dyads. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 349-360.

Braiker, H., & Kelley, H.H. (1979). Conflict in the development of close relationships. In R.L. Burgess & T.L. Huston (Eds.) Social exchange in developing relationships. New York: Academic.

Hunt, M. (1959). The natural history of love. New York: Knopf.

Kelley, C., Huston, T.L., & Cate, R.M. (1985). Premarital relationship correlates of the erosion of satisfaction in marriage. Journal of social and Personal Relationships, 2, 167-178.

McHale, S.M., & Huston, T.L. (1985). The effects of the transition to parenthood on the marriage relationship: A longitudinal study. Journal of Family Issues, 6, 409-433.

Rubin, Z. (1970). Measurement of romantic love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16, 265-273.

Snyder, D. (1979). Multidimensional assessment of marital satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 41, 813-823.

PAIR Project Papers that have used the Relationship Questionnaire

Belsky, J., Lang, M., & Huston, T.L. (1986). Sex typing and division of labor as determinants of marital change across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 517-522.

Cate, R.M., Huston, T.L., & Nesselroade, J.R. (1986). Premarital relationships: Toward the identification of alternative pathways to marriage. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 4, 3-22.

Crouter, A.C., Perry-Jenkins, M., Huston, T.L., & Crawford, D.W. (1989). The influence of work-induced psychological states on behavior at home. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 10, 273-292.

Crouter, A.C., Perry-Jenkins, M., Huston, T.L., & McHale, S.M. (1987). Processes underlying father involvement in dual-earner and single-earner families. Developmental Psychology, 23, 431-440.

Houts, R.M., Robins, E.J., & Huston, T.L. (1996). Compatibility and the development of premarital relationships. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 7 - 20.

Huston, T.L. (1994). Courtship antecedents of marital satisfaction and love. In R. Erber & R. Gilmour (Eds.), Theoretical frameworks for personal relationships. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Huston, T.L., & Chorost, A.F. (1995). Behavioral buffers on the effect of negativity on marital satisfaction: A longitudinal study. Personal Relationships, 1, 223-240.

Huston, T.L., McHale, S.M., & Crouter, A.C. (1986). When the honeymoon's over: Changes in the marriage relationship over the first year. In R. Gilmour & S. Duck (Eds.), The emerging field of personal relationships. New York: Erlbaum.

Kelley, C., Huston, T.L., & Cate, R.M. (1985). Premarital relationship correlates of the erosion of satisfaction in marriage. Journal of social and Personal Relationships, 2, 167-178.

MacDermid, S., Huston, T.L., & McHale, S. (1990). Changes in marriage associated with the transition to parenthood: Individual differences as a function of sex role attitudes and changes in the division of household labor. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, 475-486.

McHale, S.M., & Huston, T.L. (1985). The effects of the transition to parenthood on the marriage relationship: A longitudinal study. Journal of Family Issues, 6, 409-433.


The PAIR Project at the University of Texas at Austin
Principal Investigator, Ted L. Huston
Page last modified: 2 August 2002