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Family Satisfaction Scale (FSS)

David H. Olson, Ph.D. I. Overview of Family Satisfaction

While there has been a great deal of research on marital satisfaction, a literature review found no family satisfaction scale. So in the early 1980s, David Olson and Marc Wilson (1982; 1989) created what we presumed to be the first family satisfaction scale. This scale was developed to provide a reliable and valid instrument for use in family research and family therapy. A. Conceptual Definition Family satisfaction is defined as the degree to which family members feel happy and fulfilled with each other. The operational definition includes the three dimensions that are related to the Circumplex Modelcohesion, flexibility and communication. So items in the family satisfaction scale assess the satisfaction in all three of these dimensions. B. Theoretical Foundation At the time of the development of the Family Satisfaction Scale there were no other family satisfaction measures found in the literature. Based on the integrative nature, theoretical salience, and clinical relevance of the Circumplex Model, the Family Satisfaction Scale was designed to assess overall family satisfaction including the two main dimensions of this model, cohesion and flexibility. Hypotheses: The basic hypothesis of the Circumplex Model is that balanced families will be more satisfied with their system than unbalanced families. (1) Families that have high scores on balanced cohesion and balanced flexibility will have higher levels of family satisfaction. Conversely, families with high scores on the unbalanced scales will have lower levels of family satisfaction. More specifically: Balanced families will have significantly higher family satisfaction than Unbalanced families. (2) Family satisfaction will have a positive relationship to Family Communication. More specifically: Families high in family satisfaction will have significantly better family communication that families low in satisfaction.

II. Review of Literature

The Family Satisfaction Scale has been used extensively in research, most frequently in conjunction with one of the FACES instruments. The scale was first used in a study of 1,000 families across the life cycle (Olson et al., 1983; 1989) and it is upon this data that the instrument was originally normed. Since its initial development, the instrument has been used in studies covering a wide variety of family phenomena. The current version of the Family Satisfaction Scale contains 10 items and is based on the original 14 item scale. The FSS has been used to study a wide variety of family issues and a list of some of the published studies are listed in the references. Mathis (1992) found that husbands family satisfaction during mediation was generally negative while the wives satisfaction declined only after mediation. Family satisfaction was found useful in validating an assessment in Japanese families (Kusada, 1995). Bonk (1984) found that family satisfaction increased during treatment for alcoholism and was significantly higher at post-treatment assessment. Cook (1991) also found that family satisfaction was higher after treatment for alcoholism. Caetano (1986) used the FSS to study Mexican-American families and found that family satisfaction along with cultural involvement, flexibility and cohesion were the best predictors of family functioning. The Family Satisfaction Scale has also been used in studies which have attempted to take into account the diversity of families in our society. Zacks and colleagues (1988) used the FSS to study lesbian couples and compare her findings with the normative data which is based on homosexual couples. She found that satisfaction scores in the lesbian couples were highly correlated with levels of cohesion and flexibility and lesbian couples had significantly higher levels of satisfaction than heterosexual couples.

III. Empirical Foundation of Family Satisfaction

A. Validity of Scale The 10 item family satisfaction scale is based on a 14 item scale developed by Olson and Wilson (1982). Both the original 14 item scale and the revised 10 item scale were designed to assess satisfaction with various aspects of family functioning including family closeness, flexibility and communication. There has been reported in the literature a large overlap between the concepts of marital satisfaction and overall life satisfaction. The national study of over 1,000 families by Olson and colleagues (1989) found similar findings with respect to family satisfaction (see table 1)

Table 1: Intercorrelations of Satisfaction Variables Marital Satisfaction (L-W) Marital Satifaction (LockeWallace) Marital Satisfaction (ENRICH) Family Satisfaction Quality of Life .48 Marital Satisfaction (ENRICH) .73 Family Satisfaction Quality of Life







Individual Data









Couple Means

HusbandWife Correlations

As can be seen in Table 1, marital satisfaction accounts for half of the variation in family satisfaction (r=.70, r-squared=.49), and family satisfaction accounts for nearly half of the variance in quality of life (r=.67, r-squared=.45). The lower correlations between husband and wife scores indicate that it is indeed individual realities which are being measured rather than a family reality. Satisfaction across the life cycle as examined by the national study is displayed in Figure 1 showing that satisfaction is not a static variable but one which changes with changes in the family life cycle. Findings were similar for two measures of marital satisfaction and a measure of quality of life.

Figure 1: Family Satisfaction Across the Life Cycle

51 50 49 48 47 46 45 44 1 2 Wives 3 Husbands 4 5 6 Adolescent Male 7

Adolescent Female

Family satisfaction seems to follow the same shallow U curve across the family life cycle as has been found with marital satisfaction in previous studies (Olson, 1989).Family satisfaction starts our higher for wives than husbands as has been found with marital satisfaction. Satisfaction then dips for both husbands and wives reaching its lowest point as adolescents reach the launching stage and then rises. T-tests revealed significant differences in satisfaction levels with satisfaction being higher at earlier couple stages (stages 1 and 2) than at childrearing and launching stages (stages 4 and 5) for both husbands and wives. It is interesting to note that adolescents reports of family satisfaction are very similar to their parents when group mean scores are used. However correlation among fathers, mothers and adolescents scores are low (r=.32) and the difference in male and female adolescent scores are significant. B. Reliability of the Scale Based on a sample of 2,465 family members, the 10 item family satisfaction scale has an alpha reliability of .92 and test re-test of .85. C. Mean & Standard Deviation Based on a sample of 2,465 family members, the mean score for the scale is 37.5 and standard deviation is 8.5.

D. Scoring of the Family Satisfaction Scale 1. Add all items of the Family Satisfaction scale. 2. The sum of these items is the total score. 3. The range of scores is from 10-50. Family Satisfaction: Interpretation of Scores
Percentage and Levels
Family Satisfaction Family Satisfaction Raw Percent 50 49 48 47 46 45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 10-25 99 98 97 94 92 87 84 79 75 71 66 58 51 45 40 35 30 28 25 23 21 18 15 13 12 10

Very High 86-99% High 61-85%

Family members are very satisfied and really enjoy most aspects of their family.

Family members are satisfied with most aspects of their family.

Moderate 36-60% Low 21-35%

Family members are somewhat satisfied and enjoy some aspects of their family. Family members are somewhat dissatisfied and have some concerns about their family.

Very Low 10-20%

Family members are very dissatisfied and are concerned about their family.

Family Satisfaction Scale

David H. Olson 1 Very Dissatisfied 2 Somewhat Dissatisfied 3 Generally Satisfied 4 Very Satisfied 5 Extremely Satisfied

How satisfied are you with: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. . The degree of closeness between family members. Your familys ability to cope with stress. Your familys ability to be flexible. Your familys ability to share positive experiences. The quality of communication between family members. Your familys ability to resolve conflicts. The amount of time you spend together as a family. The way problems are discussed. The fairness of criticism in your family. Family members concern for each other.

References and Published Articles on the Family Satisfaction Scale (FSS)

Amerikaner, M., Monks, G., Wolfe, P., & Thomas, S. (1994). Family interaction and individual psychological health. Journal of Counseling and Development, 72, 614620. Barnes, H. L. (1988). Cross-generational coalitions, discrepant perceptions and family functioning. Journal of Psychotherapy and the Family, 4, 175-198. Basolo-Kunzer, M., Diamond, S., Maliszewski, M., Weyermann, L., & (1991). Chronic headache patients marital and family adjustment. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 12, 133-148. Berry, R. E., & Williams, F. L. (1987). Assessing the relationship between Quality of Life & Marital & Income Satisfaction: A path analytic approach. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 49,107-116. Bulow, B. V., Sweeney, J. A., Shear, K., & et. al. (1987). Family satisfaction with psychiatric evaluations. Health & Social Work, 12, 290-295. Canfield, K. R., Schumm, W. R., Swihart, J. J., & et. al. (1990). Factoral validity of brief satisfaction scales in surveys of Mormon, Roman Catholic & Protestant fathers. Psychological Reports, 67, 1319-1322. Carver, M. D., & Jones, W. H. (1992). The Family Satisfaction Scale. Social Behavior and Personality, 20, 71-83. Chung, M. J., & Chung, H. S. (1994). Coping strategies of adolescents: Predictor variables. Korean Journal of Child Studies, 15, 3-19. Daley, J. G., Sowers, H. K., & Thyer, B. A. (1990). Are FACES II Family Satisfaction scores valid? Journal of Family Therapy, 12, 77-81. Feldman, R. B., Zelkowitz, P., Weiss, M., Vogel, J, & (1995). A comparison of the families of mothers with borderline and nonborderline personality disorders. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 36, 157-163. Fowers, B. J., & Olson, D. H. (1993). ENRICH Marital Satisfaction Scale: A brief research and clinical tool. Journal of Family Psychology, 7, 176-185. Green, K. Fine, M. J., & Tollefson, N. (1988). Family systems characteristics and underachieving gifted adolescent males. Gifted Child Quarterly, 32, 267-272. Harter, S., Neimeyer, R. A., & Alexander, P. C. (1989). Personal construction of family relationships: The relation of commonality and sociality to family satisfaction for parents and adolescents. International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology, 2, 123-142. Henry, C. A. (1994). Family system characteristics, parental behaviors & adolescent family life satisfaction. Family Relations, 43, 447-455. Henry, C. S., & Plunkett, S. W. (1995). Validation of the adolescent family life satisfaction index: An update. Psychological Reports, 76, 672-674. Heras, P., & Revilla, L. A. (1994). Acculturation, generational status, and family environment of Filipino Americans: A study in cultural adaptation. Family Therapy, 21, 129-138.

Jeong, J. G., & Schumm, W. R. (1990). Family satisfaction in Korean-American marriages: An exploratory study of the perception of Korean wives. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 21, 325-336. Kazak, A. E. (1989). Family functioning in families with older institutionalized retarded offspring. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 19, 501-509. Kennedy, G. E. (1989). Differences among college students perceptions of family satisfaction. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 68, 129-130. Kurokawa, J. (1990). An attempt to standardize three scales (Japanese versions) which are based on the Olson Circumplex Model Family Satisfaction, ParentAdolescent Communication and FACES III. Japanese Journal of Family Psychology, 71-82. Leonard, B. J., Scott, S. A., & Sootsman, J. (1989). A home-monitoring program for parents of premature infants: A comparative study of the psychological effects. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 10, 92-97. Leon, G. R., Fulkerson, J. A., Perry, C. L., & Dube, A. (1994). Family influences, school behaviors, and risk for the later development of an eating disorder. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 23, 499-515. Mathis, R. D., & Tanner, Z. (1991). Cohesion, adaptability and satisfaction of family systems in later life. Family Therapy, 18, 47-60. Mathis, R. D., & Yingling, L.C. (1992). Analysis of pre and posttest gender differences in family satisfaction of divorce mediation couples. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 17, 75-85. Mathis, R. D., & Yingling, L.C. (1991). Discriminant function analysis of FACES III and Family Satisfaction questionnaires to predict outcome in divorce mediation. American Journal of Family Therapy, 19, 367-377. McLinden, S. E. (1990). Mothers and fathers reports of the effects of a young child with special needs on the family. Special Issue: Families. Journal of Early Intervention, 14, 249-259. Mensink, D. L., & Sawatzky, D. D. (1989). The impact of family form on perceptions of childrens functioning. The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 35, 237-254. Okamoto, K. (1990). On existential tendency for life and family satisfaction in modern college students. Japanese Journal of Family Psychology, 4, 83-95. Olson, D.H. & Wilson, M. (1982, 1989) Family Satisfaction. In Olson, D.H. and colleagues. Families: What Makes Them Work. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publishing. Orthner, D. K., & Mancini, J. A. (1990). Leisure impacts on family interaction and cohesion. Journal of Leisure Research, 22, 125-137. Scabini, E., & Galimberti, C. (1994). Adolescents and young adults: A familial transition (Adolescenti e giovani adulti: Una transizione familiare). Ricerche di Psicologia, 18, 61-79. Scheer, S. D., & Unger, D. G. (1995). Parents perceptions of their adolescence: Implications for parent-youth conflict and family satisfaction. Psychological Reports, 76, 131-136. Scott, W. A., & Scott, R. (1991). Adaptation of immigrant and native Australians. Australian Psychologist, 26, 43-48. Seeblach, W. C., & Die, A. H. (1988). Family satisfactions and filial norms among elderly Vietnamese immigrants. Journal of Aging Studies, 2, 267-276.

Stolk, Y., & Perlesz, A. J. (1990). Do better trainees make worse family therapists? A follow-up study of client families. Family Process, 29, 45-58. Weigel, D. J., & Weigel, R. R. (1990). Family satisfaction in two-generation farm families: The role of stress and resources. Family Relations, 39, 449-455. Weigel, D. J., & Weigel. R. R. (1990). Congruency of preferences for family-based gender roles & family satisfaction in two-generation farm families. Sex Roles, 22, 649-659. Weigel, R. R., Weigel, D. J., & Bludall, J. (1987). Stress, coping, and satisfaction: Generational differences in farm families. Family Relations Journal of Applied Family and Child Studies, 36, 45-48. Zacks, E., Green, R. J., Marrow, J. (1988). Comparing lesbian and heterosexual couples on the Circumplex Model: An initial investigation. Family Process, 27, 471-484. Zarski, J. J., DePompei, R., & Zook, A. (1988). Traumatic head injury: Dimensions of family responsivity. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 3, 31-41.