Approaches to Prediction
AND CLASSIFICATION TECHNIQUES
DOUGLAS K. SNYDER
LAUREL F. MANGRUM
In many ways, scientific understanding of couples and families progresses in a manner similar to children's knowledge of their surrounding world. Like a child's first impression of a parent, science begins with an awareness of some phenomenon not yet understood but sensed to be important for further exploration. Exploration leads to efforts to refine the ability to recognize and define instances of occurrence and nonoccurrence, and this ability promotes efforts to quantify. Like the child's insight that parents provide nurturance, science progresses with the recognition that certain phenomena go hand in hand; the occurrence of one denotes the likelihood of the other, the absence of one the improbability of the other. It is this recognition of covariation between events that precedes the last stage of understanding, reflected in the ability to influence or control one phenomenon by manipulating another. Thus awareness leads to exploration, exploration to measurement, measurement to observation of covariation, and covariation to manipulation and influence.
We do not mean to imply by this proposed progression that marital and family dynamics are either singular or unidirectional. Most phenomena are influenced by multiple other phenomena, and directions of influence are often recursive: A affects B, and B affects A. Nor does this progression acclaim quantitative approaches to the exclusion of qualitative ones; Cavell and Snyder (1991) have argued elsewhere that both play critical roles in the generation and verification of knowledge. Indeed, efforts to delineate covariation with quantitative techniques often proceed best when the phenomena selected for study have been identified through intensive qualitative methods. Rather, we propose that prediction strategies based on correlation and related procedures provide a useful bridge between observation of existing phenomena—whether qualitatively or quantitatively based—and attempts to modify the same.