The Dyadic Adjustment Scale for Relationships

January 4, 2020
Communication, gestures of affection, ability to reach agreements ... The Dyadic Adjustment Scale by Graham B. Spanier allows you to evaluate these and other aspects to know the degree of cohesion in a relationship.

The Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS) is the most used psychological tool to assess the quality of a relationship, as well as its adjustment, satisfaction, and commitment, among other aspects. It’s a resource available in any couples therapy scenario and also in the field of research. Thanks to it, people can obtain reliable and valid information about the emotional bond of two people.

It’s possible for the term “adjustment” to create some doubts. So, what do scientists mean exactly when they talk about this dimension? Well, in reality, the single word already makes you visualize two specific pieces that, due to their shape and characteristics, are more or less likely to fit with each other and, therefore, work. The same thing happens at a relationship level, as you may already know.

Adjustment is, for example, having the same values, knowing how to reach agreements, and knowing how to handle difficult situations together. It’s also about enjoying each other, mutual respect, and reciprocity. And note that this issue has always been of great interest to both the world of psychology and sociology.

Studying how couples adjust helps you understand, for example, the rates of ruptures or divorces in society. In addition, it helps you understand the degree of satisfaction or how new generations behave compared to previous ones in this area. Thus, as you can intuit, the Dyadic Adjustment Scale is an indispensable resource in many everyday scenarios.

Similarly, it’s interesting to know that it’s a questionnaire used worldwide due to its simplicity and excellent psychometric results, ever since sociologist Graham Spanier developed it in 1976 at the University of Pennsylvania. Below, discover what it’s all about.

“Never above you, never below you, always beside you.”

-Walter Winchell-

A man and a woman in water.

The purpose and characteristics of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale

The Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS) aims to assess the degree of harmony or overall adjustment of the partners in a relationship. Professor Spaniel, responsible for this questionnaire, noted that:

“To measure the dyadic adjustment of a relationship based on dimensions such as the possible differences between the couple, tensions, the presence of anxiety in the relationship and its intensity, the degree of satisfaction, cohesion and ease or difficulty in reaching agreements.”

Also, the one thing that today’s professionals appreciate in this instrument is its neutrality. In other words, it can be applied to any partner profile (heterosexual, homosexual, married, single, etc.). It doesn’t matter that more than 40 years have passed since Graham Spaniel introduced it, as it remains a useful, practical, and interesting scale.

The four areas of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale

The Dyadic Adjustment Scale consists of 32 items established based on four subscales:

  • Consensus. Capacity, resources, and skills to reach agreements. With this questionnaire, you can learn the degree to which a couple reaches daily consensus.
  • Satisfaction. This dimension is key in every affectionate link; it informs you of the level of well-being, happiness, and commitment, etc.
  • Cohesion. With this term, they refer to the degree of involvement of one member of a relationship with the other. It’s the interest, the appreciation, the ability to generate solutions to problems, to search for moments to share time, etc.
  • Expression of affection. This subscale is an indispensable piece to assess how a couple fits together. Thus, it refers to everyday gestures that show love and affection. Thus, it’s related to their sex life and its satisfaction.
A man and a woman drinking coffee.

What issues does the Spanier scale value?

As we mentioned above, Spanier’s Dyadic Adjustment Scale consists of 32 items. The answers follow the Likert style. This means that they have four options ranging from “always agree” to “seldom agree”.

This questionnaire follows a self-correcting format so that you can have the results quickly. In addition, the most useful thing is to be able to compare each data in both partners to understand each person’s strengths, their problems, and the areas that require improvement.

  1. Family finance management
  2. Entertainment
  3. Religious issues
  4. Display of affection
  5. Friendship
  6. Sexual intercourse
  7. Conventionalisms
  8. Philosophy of life
  9. Relationship with in-laws
  10. Objectives, goals, and values
  11. Amount of time they spend together
  12. Consensus about important decisions
  13. Chores
  14. Leisure interests and activities
  15. Decisions regarding work
  16. How often have they considered divorce or separation?
  17. And how often do they leave home after having a fight?
  18. How often do they think things are going well for them as a couple?
  19. Do they trust their partner?
  20. Do they regret being with their partner?
  21. How often do they argue?
  22. How often do they feel they lose their temper?
  23. Do they participate together in activities outside their relationship?
  24. And do they exchange stimulating ideas?
  25. Do they laugh together?
  26. And do they usually argue calmly?
  27. Do they work together on a project?
  28. How often do they have sex?
  29. Is there an absence of displays of affection?
  30. Rating of the degree of satisfaction of their relationship?
  31. How they see the future with their partner.
A person evaluating their relationship with the dyadic scale.

Is the dyadic adjustment scale reliable to assess a relationship?

Studies such as the one conducted by Dr. Michael Carey of the University of Boston show that, indeed, the scale developed by Spanier in 1976 remains valid and reliable. Thus, its four scales continue to be internally consistent, so it still stands as a resource that can give very important information.

Thus, not only can you see the degree of adjustment of a couple. But thanks to it, it’s also possible to assess aspects of the personality of those evaluated and even the probability that this link will be maintained or not in the future. Therefore, this is a questionnaire of great interest both for psychological intervention and for the field of research.

  • Carey, MP, Spector, IP, Lantinga, LJ y Krauss, DJ (1993). Fiabilidad de la escala de ajuste diádico. Evaluación psicológica , 5 (2), 238–240. https://doi.org/10.1037/1040-3590.5.2.238
  • Spanier,G.B.(1989). Manual for the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. North Tonowanda, NY: Multi-Health Systems.
  • Spanier, G. B. (1976). Measuring dyadic adjustment: New scales for assessing the quality of marriage and similar dyads. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 38, 15-28.
  • Spanier, G.B. & Thompson, L. (1982). A confirmatory analysis of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 44, 731-738.