Concepts and measures of relationships with: parents, spouse, God and of ideology: social, economic, political, spiritual, religious

Earl S. Schaefer, PhD.

Professor Emeritus, Univ.of NC at Chapel Hill


My research at the National Institute of Mental Health began with development of differentiated measures of parent attitudes toward childrearing. The frequency of citations of that research motivated research on parent behavior utilizing research records collected by Nancy Bayley in the Berkeley Growth Study. In that research a number of mid-level concepts defined by trait actions were rated from narrative reports of parent observations and interviews. Research on reliability, stability through time, and validity of these ratings supported the utility of these ratings. A circumplex model of maternal behavior developed from factor analyses of the ratings has contributed to integration of research on parent behavior. A goal of developing a more cost-effective measures of parent behavior motivated the development of the Child Report of Parent Behavior Inventory. Factor analysis of differentiated measures confirmed and extended the circumplex model of maternal behavior The utility of this research is suggested by the frequent and continuing citations of the 1959 (N=295) and 1965 papers (N>650}.


The concepts, methods and conceptual models of the research on parent behavior provided a precedent for research on marital behavior. Exploratory work on differentiated concepts identified dimensions of autonomy versus control and of acceptance/relatedness versus hostile detachment. Factor analysis of several brief scales of autonomy, control, relatedness, acceptance, and additional scales of sexuality, sensuality, romance, and physical affection revealed a general factor of acceptance/relatedness versus detachment/withdrawal. Factor analysis of two principal components differentiated dimensions of autonomy versus control and of sexuality/sensuality.


Interest in parental influence on intellectual development motivated development of measures of maternal behavior, parental beliefs, and values that were interpreted as indices of parental modernity. Both an infant education intervention and longitudinal research on maternal care during infancy provided evidence of the influence of the family environment on intellectual development. A Classroom Behavior Inventory that yielded three replicated factors of Intelligence, Considerateness versus Hostility and Extraversion versus Introversion was developed as a brief but valid method for studying child behavior.


Evidence of the significance of perceptions of parent-child and husband-wife relationships for social-emotional adaptation motivated development of an inventory to explore individual perceptions and interpretations of God. Beliefs concerning the existence and nature of God and positive views of relationships with God are substantially correlated with reports of frequency of prayer and of attendance at religious services. Positive perceptions and interpretations of God are substantially correlated with reports of trust, hope, thankfulness, and joy in response to the uncertainties of life and death.


Researches on relationships that complement researches on individual personality and psychopathology support an interpretation of a person as a holon, i e., a whole as an individual and a part of a network of relationships in family and community. Self -reports of a person’s perceptions of self and of others appear to be substantially related to self-report of happiness.


Another method for research an individual’s perceptions and interpretation of reality, the Ideology Inventory, collects quantitative data on support for or rejection of social, political, economic, religious and spiritual “isms.” Isms might be viewed as memes, i. e., cultural units that complement genes, biological units that influence behavior. The initial results of analyses of the Ideology Inventory reveal patterns of ideology that are related to religious beliefs, to political party preferences, and to marital status. Statistical analyses that evaluate the theory that “Ideas have Consequences” support the potential fruitfulness of mememetrics as a complement to psychometrics..


I plan to report the development of the Marital Autonomy, Relatedness and Intimacy Inventory that provides more differentiated and comprehensive measures than the Marital Adjustment Inventory or the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. I also plan to report data from the Perceptions of God Inventory and the Ideology Inventory. I invite the reader to contribute their anonymous responses to the Ideology Inventory.


I have found that posting inventories on the Internet is a cost-effective method for collecting data for development, integration, and exploration of new concepts and measures. The Internet facilitates collection of quantitative data on large samples of anonymous volunteers without research funding. I am very grateful to the persons who contribute to my continuing use of this method for exploring new fields of research. .