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Marital Typologies

Elements Of A Good Typology Of Marriage

A good typology should include five important characteristics. The typology must be: exhaustive; mutually exclusive; a reliable means of assigning couples to a type; developed through a systematic process; and able to economize thought.

Exhaustive means that all of the important dimensions of a marriage relationship are included when couples are assigned to a marital type. If communication is an important component of a marriage, then "communication" must be one of the criteria used to assign couples to a marriage type. However, if the typology is to be exhaustive, it must include other important dimensions of marriage relationships, not merely communication.

Mutually exclusive means that a couple should be assigned to only one type of marriage. Thus, a couple should be classified as either a vital or a total marriage, not a mixed type including characteristics common to both vital and total marriages. A reliable method of assigning couples means there must be no uncertainty in the typology assignment. A good typology will clearly outline why the marriage is assigned a specific type.

The typology should be developed through a systematic process rather than merely by intuition or logic. Some typologies have been developed in a fairly informal fashion when scholars, based on their own understanding of marriage, developed what they thought were the most important and logical characteristics to describe all marriages. For example, some scholars assumed that marital stability (how likely the couple is to stay married) and marital satisfaction (the degree of happiness within the marriage) were the best two dimensions to describe all marriages (Levinger 1965; Lewis and Spanier 1979). The logic of these scholars was therefore used to develop a typology that described all marriages. On the other hand, some scholars use sophisticated scientific procedures to observe marriages and, as a result of their observations, develop a typology. For instance, John M. Gottman (1999, 1994) and his colleagues observed marital partners as they discussed real relationship problems, and then developed five marital types based on their observations. Therefore, Gottman's marital types are derived from systematic observations rather than logic and beliefs about marriage.

Finally, a good typology should be able to economize thought. It should concisely describe a great deal of information about a marriage. The typology should group together into one type all marriages sharing similar characteristics and separate into different types those marriages that differ from one another.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesMarital Typologies - Elements Of A Good Typology Of Marriage, The Proliferation Of Marriage-related Typologies, Using Logical Methods To Create Typologies