Using Questionnaires in Clinical Couple and Family Research

Deanna Linville, Jeff L. Todahl, Maya Elin O’Neil

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The use of questionnaires in couples and family therapy (CFT) research is prevalent, popular, and efficient, but there are many considerations for researchers deciding whether or not to use questionnaires as part of their data collection processes. The majority of measurement development research has been focused on measuring individual outcomes (e.g., health outcomes) and treatment efficacy, with lesser consideration to process variables, tracking change, and relational interaction measurements (Heatherington, Friedlander, & Greenberg, 2005). We believe that it is important to include questionnaires that measure interpersonal process and relational change while not sacrificing important individual-level information, especially because there is strong support for the reciprocal relationship between relational distress and individual mental health issues (Cano & O’Leary, 2000; Whisman & Uebelacker, 2006). For example, if a researcher is examining the effects of infidelity on partner depression, it will be essential to measure the effects of the infidelity on relationship dynamics and vice versa while also measuring depression at an individual level. In addition, we believe that it is essential for relational theories to lay the foundation for questionnaires that are used in CFT research (see Chapter 3). Too often, individualfocused psychological theory underlies the items in questionnaires being used to measure relational outcomes and processes, which can lead to inaccurate or incomplete assessment of complex couple and family dynamics. Also, using measures that are not designed to assess interactions or relational outcomes can yield invalid results. For example, the interactive nature of relational stress is likely inaccurately assessed by measures designed to assess individual stress levels. Similarly, generalizing the assessment data from one partner to the other partner can also result in an invalid assessment. Therefore, this chapter will focus on the use of questionnaires in tracking change and, specifically in couples and family contexts, in considerations for the four major types of validity: external, construct, internal, and conclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvanced Methods in Family Therapy Research
Subtitle of host publicationA Focus on Validity and Change
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781136192203
ISBN (Print)9780415637503
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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