Meghan Emmert and Andrea Lord

Douglass, F.M., & Douglass, R., (1995). “The Marital Problems Questionnaire” Family Relations, 44, 238-244.

A Summary


            For many years now therapists have been looking for ways to effectively assess couples who are entering behavioral marital therapy.  As a result there have been many tests created to perform such an assessment.  Each of these tests focuses on a different aspect of marriage to qualify what is going on in the couples’ relationship.  However, no one test has been able to get a complete assessment from all angles.

            A couple tests were constructed to assess the couples’ overall marital adjustment.  One of them is the Marital Adjustment Test, or the MAT.  Locke and Wallace created this fifteen-item test in 1959.  Another test that is similar the MAT is the thirty-two item Dyadic Adjustment Scale, or the DAS.  Spanier invented this assessment tool in 1976.  These tests however fail to effectively assess overall marital adjustment because if failed to collect information about specific problems in the relationship that was causing the difficulty.  Additionally the test combined objective descriptive items, which measured marital adjustment with subjective items with accounted for marital satisfaction.  This resulted in criterion contamination. 

            Other tests attempted to evaluate specific problem areas in the marriage.  Margolin, Talovic, and Weinstein wrote the Areas of Change Questionnaire, or the AC, in 1983.  The Marital Comparison Level Index or MCLI was invented by Sabatelli in 1984.  Because these tests were found to overrepresent problems that were not common and not include popular problems they failed to perform an effective assessment.  Additionally they also phrased the items to that they were measuring more the respondent’s perceptions and less of their behaviors. 

            Two tests were constructed to determine the rate of the divorce risk.  These tests were the Marital Status Inventory, MSI, and the Marital Instability Index, MII.  The MSI was created by Weiss and Cerreto in 1980 and the MII was created by Booth, Johnson and Edwards in 1983.  The problem with these tests was that they covered more ground than necessary.  Instead of simply discovering what steps had been taken toward a divorce that also went on to find out what the results were of those steps.  This made the results more difficult to interpret.  Furthermore the two tests failed to identify individuals who did have a high risk of divorce, but their situation was such that it wouldn’t indicate this.  However the tests should have accounted for this.

            To overcome all of these conflicts, oversights, and undersights, Douglass and Douglass (1995) came up with Marital Problems Questionnaire, or MPQ.  This test is a two pages that contains seventeen questions on the first page and thirty nine hypothetical problem areas in which the respondent is to rate as to how often that item causes conflict in their marriage.  Each of the thirty-nine items is rated on a zero to four-point scale, with zero indicating that it never causes conflict. 

            One problem that did arise from this rating scale was that some hypothetical problems are more severe than others, such as sexual infidelity compared to equal division of chores.  It is very likely that sexual infidelity is going to cause more severe problems in the relationship.  However, the authors could not come up with a way to account for this. 

            The preliminary psychometric properties of the MPQ were calculated using 700 husbands and wives, an equal division of each.  The respondents had marriages that lasted from zero to sixty years.  The men’s ages ranged from nineteen to ninety three and the women’s ages ranged from eighteen to eighty nine.  They individuals were mostly Caucasian, Baptist and educated.  The mean of children was 1.27.

            The respondents were recruited by thirty-five undergraduate students were older than most undergraduate, employed, commuted to school.  Each student recruited ten couples, resulting in 350 couples, or 700 individuals. 

            The results of the test indicated that even though the couple may not agree on the specific areas the problems lie within, they do agree on the overall number of conflicts that exist in their relationship.  Additionally the greatest correlation found was for “husband’s friends,” “Paying bills,” “use of credit cards,” and “religious beliefs.”  Furthermore, the test proved to have high internal consistency with a Cronbach alpha value of 93.   

            Despite its great effort to be the odds the MPQ was also found to have limitations or flaws.  Initially the persons selected for the preliminary psychometric properties are not a sufficient representation of the relative population.  Another issue was that the test did not account for the variables related to the actual divorce and only collected information at one point in time. 

            However the Marital Problems Questionnaire displays evidence for three dimensions of marital behavior.  First of all, the results were reliable and valid.  Secondly, one could effectively identify the problem areas in the relationship from the test results.  And third of all, one could also use the results to evaluate the risk of divorce.  Additionally the shortness and conciseness of the test made it easy to understand.  Overall this test did provide the therapist with crucial information to make their initial marital assessment.       




Meghan Emmert and Andrea Lord

Intro to Testing

Research Panel Outline

April 8, 2002


A.                 Preliminary Tests

1.         Overall Marital Adjustment

a.                   Marital Adjustment Test (MAT)

b.                  Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS


2.                  Specific Problem Areas

a.                   Areas of Change Questionnaire (AC)

b.                  Marital Comparison Level Index (MCLI)


3.                  Divorce Risk

a.                   Marital Status Inventory (MSI)

b.                  Marital Instability Index (MII)


4.                  Combining Tests


B.                 Marital Problem Questionnaire

1.                  Construction Method

2.                  Preliminary Psychometric Properties

3.                  Respondents

4.                  Results

a.                   Limitations

b.                  Overall contributions of tests