Academic journal article Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development

Measuring Positive Emotionality: A Review of Instruments Assessing Love. (Assessment in Action)

Academic journal article Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development

Measuring Positive Emotionality: A Review of Instruments Assessing Love. (Assessment in Action)

Article excerpt

Love is a multidimensional construct that has proven difficult to define and, consequently, challenging to measure. A variety of available instruments purport to measure aspects of love, 9 of which are reviewed and discussed in this article. Researchers and practitioners are advised to study definitions of the love construct as well as psychometric properties of instruments in selecting measures of love appropriate to their purposes.

The importance of love has been acknowledged for centuries in the writings of philosophers (e.g., Plato), theologians (e.g., St. Paul, 1 Corinthians), and scholars (e.g., Maslow) (O'Sullivan & O'Leary, 1992). Yet love consistently has been defined as somewhat of "a mystery" (Jung, 1961, p. 353) "with which we are psychologically preoccupied" (Powell, 1978, p. 14). Early researchers in the last century explained love as a unidimensional construct reflecting interpersonal attraction and viewed liking and loving as the anchors of a linear continuum (Huston, 1974); others considered movement on the continuum to be the result of interpersonal attraction, the latter consisting of cognitive, affective, and behavioral components (Berscheid & Walster, 1978). Lee's (1977) typology of six love styles has dominated much of the theory and research in the past 20 years; Sternberg's (1986) triangular theory of love and eight kinds of love also serve as the basis for research and clinical practice. Multiple definitions have resulted in multiple measures of love, leaving researchers and practitioners with the dilemma of selecting the most appropriate measures for their purposes.

There was a noticeable lack of research involving love during the 1950s and 1960s (Curtin, 1973; Elkins & Smith, 1979). Wrightsman and Deaux (1981) noted that during that period, researchers "believed love [was] too mysterious and too intangible for scientific study" (p. 170). However, during the mid-1970s and early 1980s, love became "respectable as an area for study by psychologists" (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1986, p. 392). This professional acceptance resulted in a renewed focus during the 1990s on defining, measuring, and examining love's components, variables, and overall importance as part of holistic wellbeing (see, e.g., Beall & Sternberg, 1995; Thompson & Borrello, 1992b). Holistic approaches included love as a key life task that is necessary to achieve optimum individual wellness (see, e.g., Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2000; Sweeney & Witmer, 1991). As we entered the new millennium, individuals promoting the "positive psychology" movement began encouraging psychologists to use similar strength-based pract ices in their work.

Leading theorists and practitioners called for a new focus on the "actions [that] lead to well-being, to positive individuals, and to thriving communities" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 5) rather than on pathology and negativism. Finding ways to both assess and encourage love and loving relationships certainly falls within the framework of this overall trend in the field.

The current view of love reflects a complex, multidimensional concept that is difficult, if not impossible, to define in a universal manner (Beall & Steinberg, 1995; Hendrick & Hendrick, 1989). Thompson and Borrello (1992a) explained that scholars use "two distinct lines of inquiry regarding the nature of love" (p. 154): The deductive inquiry approach is grounded in theory and is used in more traditional classical quantitative research (e.g., Hendrick, Hendrick, & Dicke, 1998). Other researchers take an inductive inquiry approach, which involves fewer specific hypotheses within the context of exploratory research, with an overall goal of developing new theory.

Beall and Sternberg (1995) provided a comprehensive review of definitions of love, arguing for a social-constructionist view of this phenomenon. More specifically, they suggested "both the definition and the emotional experience of love are contextually bound" (p. …

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