Review of the DAS Running head: DAS REVIEW


Review of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale Carolyn Frances Argosy University, SFBA

PC 6240 BLB Susan Guzzo, Psy.D. April 2009

Review of the DAS Review of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale There are many instruments designed to measure qualities of a relationship. The Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS) is one of the more popular tests currently available. This paper will discuss the scale, its development, reliability, validity, and usage followed by a critique.


The Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS), developed by Spanier in 1976 (Spanier, 1976), was published in 1989 (Spanier, 1989). It is available through Multi-Health Systems, Inc. to those who have had a graduate class or equivalent training in testing measures (Multi-Health Systems, 2009b). Spanier (1976) developed the scale to measure the quality of adjustment in any romantic dyad (Graham, Liu & Jeziorski, 2006). He defined adjustment as “an ever-changing process with a qualitative dimension which can be evaluated at any point in time on a dimension from well adjusted to maladjusted” (Spanier, 1976, p. 17). He included satisfaction with the relationship, the amount of cohesion, level of consensus, and affectionate expression as indicators of the quality of adjustment in the dyad (Spanier, 1976). The scale, therefore, is composed of four subscales: dyadic consensus, which measures agreement on various topics such as religion, goals, and household tasks; dyadic satisfaction, which contains questions around interpersonal behavior; dyadic cohesion, which covers shared activities; and affectional expression, which briefly addresses physical interactions (Spanier, 1976). The DAS was designed with both clinical and research usage in mind (Spanier, 1976). It can be taken with paper and pencil or electronically in five to ten minutes and is easy to score (Multi-Health Systems, 2009a; Spanier, 1989). The scores of the two partners can be compared or looked at individually (Spanier, 1989). The test can be used to monitor therapy, evaluate the need for therapy, or illuminate differences between partners (Spanier, 1989). In research, the complete test can be used, or subscales may be used alone when these specific areas are of

Review of the DAS interest (Spanier, 1976). The test has proved to be popular and has purportedly been used in more than 1,000 studies (Graham et al., 2006; Multi-Health Systems, 2009a). The DAS has no particular theory behind its development. The scale was developed by taking 300 items from existing measures of relationships, removing duplicates, and then reviewing the remainder for content validity (Spanier, 1976). Finally after conducting a factor analysis, the result was a 32 item test, using 30 Likert scales and two dichotomous questions


(Spanier, 1976). The test was then given to a sample of 218 white, married individuals in person and administered to 94 recently divorced individuals via mail (Spanier, 1976). These participants from Pennsylvania became the normative sample and continue to be used as the norm (Spanier, 1989) despite the fact that the test has since been given to a much broader sample of the population in other studies (Graham et al., 2006). The mean for the total score among married participants was 114.8 with a standard deviation of 17.8 and 70.7 for divorced participants with a standard deviation of 23.8 (Spanier, 1976). While T scores are used in the profile report available from Multi-Health Systems, Inc., the literature reviewed for this report referred only to raw scores. Cut off scores used in evaluating test results seem to be arbitrarily drawn (Spanier, 1989). Scores below 92 are considered to indicate distress, while scores above 107 indicate adjustment (Graham et al., 2006). The DAS has reported good reliability and validity. With a test-retest coefficient of .96, consistency is good for the DAS (Spanier, 1989). This is further born out when Cronbach’s coefficient alpha is used to determine reliability. The author reports a .96 coefficient for the entire scale and a range of .73 to .94 for the subscales, affectional expression being the lowest and dyadic satisfaction being the highest (Spanier, 1976). In general, scores have been shown to be stable over time (Graham et al., 2006). In their meta-analysis, Graham et al. (2006) looked at

Review of the DAS reliability across studies. While they found that coefficients are slightly lower than the author’s initial report, they are still acceptable with the possible exception of the affective expression scale. This particular subscale has fewer questions which contributes to its lower reliability


rating. Although it had a reliability coefficient of .714, the 95% confidence interval does put it in the position of borderline acceptability (Graham et al., 2006). In Spanier’s (1976) report, he explains that the DAS has been reviewed by three judges against defined standards to ensure content validity. The marked difference between scores of married people (a mean of 114.8) and divorced people (a mean of 70.7) helps establish criterionrelated validity for the test (Spanier, 1976). The DAS has been shown to correlate well with other marital relationship tests, for example, there was a .86 correlation for married participants with the Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Scale and a .88 correlation on the same for divorced participants in Spanier’s 1976 study. There is concurrent and predictive validity for this scale. Graham et al. (2006) find that the scale does predict the likelihood of divorce and consistently distinguishes distressed couples from nondistressed couples. While the DAS is popular and has been successfully translated into many languages (Graham et al., 2006), it has its own limitations. While scores for the test as a whole and for three of the four subscales are reliable across populations, the affective expression reliability is not stable (Graham et al., 2006). Furthermore, gender does appear to color results and this variance deserves more study (Graham et al., 2006). The author suggests that differences in partner perception and social desirability be considered when administering the test as well (Spanier, 1976). The manual gives the same cautions and suggests that the DAS not be used alone for diagnosis or treatment planning (Spanier, 1989). It is also important to remember that the scale was designed to measure adjustment which is comprised of several aspects and not the

Review of the DAS aspect of satisfaction alone when evaluating results (Graham et al., 2006; Spanier, 1976). As previously noted, the DAS has been used in more than 1,000 studies (Spanier, 1989). One example of how it has been used in the field can be provided by Makinen’s and Johnson’s (2006) study concerning the use of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) in healing attachment injuries. They used the DAS as a tool to determine the validity of an “attachment injury resolution model” (p. 1056) used in EFT. The DAS served two purposes in their research. It acted as one means of selecting participants and also as a marker for therapeutic progress (Makinen & Johnson, 2006). The test was administered to volunteer couples. Couples were chosen if their scores were within the 80 to 97 range (Makinen & Johnson, 2006). Lower scoring couples were only allowed if they had scored a three or higher on question 32 of the DAS which indicates the level of commitment to the relationship (Makinen & Johnson, 2006),


thus the participants were primarily in the moderately distressed range. No use of subscales was made in this study. Makinen and Johnson (2006) determined that the reliability coefficients for the DAS in this study were from .74 to .95. They were also able to compare scores between partners and determined that the injured partner showed more distress than the offending partner (Makinen & Johnson, 2006). Couples completed, on average, 13 sessions. The DAS was administered a second time at the conclusion of the study. Changes in DAS scores were compared with and correlated with another measure. For those couples who did reach resolution, as determined by several criteria, there was a statistically significant 22 point increase in DAS scores while the non-resolved couples showed very little change (Makinen & Johnson, 2006). The DAS proved to be a useful tool in this study to show therapeutic change and levels of distress. Overall, I believe the Dyadic Adjustment Scale serves well as a quick measure of

Review of the DAS relationship adjustment. The author carefully considered what he wanted to measure and discarded concepts that could not be empirically verified or that were outside of the concepts domain as determined by factor analysis (Spanier, 1976). Another strength of the DAS is that it is available in many languages and is easy to use. Given the high reliability scores and strong support for its validity, I believe this to be an adequate test. The subscales offer further insight into what might be causing tension in the relationship by breaking down adjustment into four areas for examiner review. The stability across samples found by Graham et al. (2006) speaks well for the scale’s scope, which intended to reach beyond marriage and include any romantic dyad. In addition, the test is flexible enough to be used clinically or in research.


Despite the fact that I believe this test to be valuable and useful, there are cautions to take into consideration. Although the test is research friendly, using the subscales alone would not be as reliable as using the test in its entirety, especially if one was using the affective expression subscale which only has 4 questions that account for 12 points of 151 on the whole test. Although review of Graham et al.’s (2006) meta-analysis suggests that the test would find similar scales if renormed, caution should be used due to the very small and homogeneous normative sample that determines the current scoring scale. In addition, the test was not administered in a standard manner to all participants in the normative sample, some having taken the test by mail and others in person (Spanier, 1976). Another weakness of the DAS is the unequal weight between subscales. The Likert scales vary question to question and two questions are dichotomous. Dyadic consensus accounts for more than a third of the total points, dyadic satisfaction another third, and the remaining two scales together the remainder of the points. Support for the cut off scores that indicate adjustment is not well documented. The DAS is certainly not definitive in providing information about the state of a romantic relationship, but

Review of the DAS it can give the tester some insight, a place to start from, and a feeling for therapeutic progress when doing an evaluation.


Review of the DAS References


Graham, J., Liu, Y., & Jeziorski, J. (2006, August). The Dyadic Adjustment Scale: A Reliability Generalization Meta-Analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68(3), 701-717. Makinen, J., & Johnson, S. (2006, December). Resolving attachment injuries in couples using emotionally focused therapy: Steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(6), 1055-1064. Spanier, G. (1976, February). Measuring dyadic adjustment: New scales for assessing the quality of marriage and similar dyads. Journal of Marriage & the Family, 38(1), 15-28. Spanier, G. (1989). Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Retrieved March 28, 2009, from Mental Measurements Yearbook database. Multi-Health Systems. (2009a). Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Retrieved March 26, 2009, from Multi-Health Systems. (2009b). Qualification Level Criteria. Retrieved March 26, 2009, from

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