Tracy Alvarez, Judith Hinojosa, Miriam Kassabgui, & Diana Pena.


Douglass IV, F., & Douglass, R.  (1995).  The Marital Problems Questionnaire (MPQ), a   short screening instrument for marital therapy.  Family Relations, 44(3), 238-245.


            The Marital Problems Questionnaire (MPQ) provides behavioral information about overall marital adjustment, conflict areas, and divorce risk.  This questionnaire was developed because other assessment instruments were unable to assess the behaviors and attitudes considered important for behavioral marital therapy (BMT).  The Marital Problems Questionnaire, on the other hand, is consistent with the practice of BMT (Douglass & Douglass, 1995). 

            First of all, let us start off with an example why couples need behavioral marital therapy.  One goes about trying to find a suitable partner, in hopes of establishing a relationship that will provide a maximum of benefits with a minimum of expended efforts (Douglass & Douglass, 1995).  When the efforts/costs exceed the benefits, conflict occurs.  When a relationship/marriage has just begun, couples try to avoid conflict.  This often leads to a build up of anger, that leads to future conflicts. As time goes on, the number of conflicts increase and marital adjustment deteriorates, which means couples are not satisfied with their marriage.  This type of situation calls for BMT.  But before BMT is started, couples are asked to, individually, fill out self-report instruments.  These instruments are used to formulate specific treatment strategies.

            Self-report instruments should address three dimensions of the relationship:  overall marital adjustment, specific problem areas, and divorce risk.  Past instruments have addressed these dimensions but have been perceived as having various limitations.  For this reason, a study was designed to develop a short marital assessment instrument.  This instrument is called the Marital Problem Questionnaire (MPQ).  The Marital Problems Questionnaire (MPQ) is a short, two-page instrument that is formatted on the front and back of a single sheet of paper. On the first page are 17 questions. The first 14 are demographic and marital history questions that are designed to record basic background information frequently obtained during an initial interview and to assist with the evaluation of divorce risk. The next 2 questions specifically ask what steps, if any, the individual has taken toward obtaining a divorce; the first is intended to evaluate an early step, whereas the second is intended to evaluate a more advanced step. At the bottom of the first page is a question designed to assess the respondent's subjective marital happiness (Douglass & Douglass, 1995).
          On the second page of the MPQ are 39 problem areas, which the respondent is asked to rate in terms of how often they cause problems in the marriage.
Each area is rated on a 0 to 4 point scale that has relatively concrete anchors. A rating of 0 is used to indicate that this area almost never causes conflict (less than once a year) and a rating of 4 is used to indicate that this area causes weekly conflict (Douglass & Douglass, 1995).  These ratings help determine what problems should be addressed in therapy.  Also, the rating values can be summed up to measure marital adjustment.  The higher the value, the more serious the adjustment is.

            Psychometric properties of the MPQ were obtained by interviewing 350 couples.  Both spouses in all 350 couples completed the MPQ and the Marital Adjustment Test (MAT).  Half of the couples (144) were also asked to complete the Marital Status Inventory (MSI).  These other instruments were used as criterion measures.

            The results of all three dimensions of the MPQ (marital adjustment, specific problem areas, and divorce risk) were found to be reliable and valid.  Although reliability and validity was found, the study suggests that the MPQ has some limitations.  For instance, the subject pool is relatively unique, data did not address variables related to actual divorce, and no data was collected from couples in therapy (Douglass & Douglass, 1995).

            Despite these limitations, the results of the study provide evidence that the MPQ assesses three dimensions of marital behavior and is psychometrically sound.