The Marital Disillusionment Scale


Author of Tool: 

Niehuis, S., & Bartell, D.

Key references: 

Niehuis, S., & Bartell, D. (2006). The marital disillusionment scale: Development and psychometric properties. North American Journal of Psychology, 8, 69-84. Niehuis, S. (2007). Convergent and discriminant validity of the marital disillusionment scale. Psychological Reports, 100, 203-207.

Primary use / Purpose: 

A measure of marital disillusionment


Recent research identified disillusionment in marriage as an important predictor of divorce, but no scale exists to measure this construct. Current projections estimate that up to 50% of today’s first marriages will end in divorce. Divorce comes at a high price for families and for society in general (Larson, Swyers, & Larson, 1995); therefore, researchers have become interested in understanding the causes of marital unhappiness and instability as a way to predict, and ideally to forestall, divorce. In recent years, research has focused particular attention on the process of disillusionment early in marriage as a predictor of divorce (Huston, Caughlin, Houts, Smith, & George, 2001). However this work has assessed disillusionment longitudinally, by examining newlywed couples’ changes in behaviors, emotions, and cognitions over time (Huston et al., 2001). While this method is empirically valid, its utility in identifying disillusionment is limited to studies in which there are multiple points of measurement. Furthermore, while this method assesses actual changes over time, it is not able to assess participants’ perceptions of disillusionment at a given point in time. The Marital Disillusionment Scale reflects the decline in positive affect about and perceptions of the partner and the marriage and the corresponding increase in negative affect about and perceptions of the partner and the marriage.


The results from two samples provide support for the scale’s internal consistency and its construct, convergent, and criterion validity. Cronbach’s alpha was .98. The scale correlates highly with other related measures assessing changes in love, affectionate expression, ambivalence, and perceptions of partner’s responsiveness over the course of marriage, and significantly differentiates married from divorced participants.



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