Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work




Oral communication, Marriage



Physical Description

1 online resource (112 leaves)


This study investigated the concept of verbal accessibility in marriage. It is an example of the interactional approach to the study of marriage, which is concerned with the on-going socialization process in marriage. Verbal communication is one component of the socialization process and also of problem solving in marriage. Interpersonal communication is influenced by many variables-- personality, culture and social situation. Polansky (1 965) conceptualized verbal accessibility as the degree of readiness to communicate verbally and to participate in communication about determinant attitudes. Determinant attitudes are those which have the most far reaching influence on other attitudes and on behavior. One of the goals of this study was to develop a scale which would permit examination of the verbal accessibility of attitudes relevant for marriage, and also to measure the VA between marital partners. The scale of fifty-seven items covered such areas as child-rearing, sex, money, education, in-laws, religion, employment, health, and the like. The items were then roughly categorized by Goffman’s scheme of social structure, interaction, and personality referents. Items were also judged as to their positive, negative and neutral connotation. Subjects were asked to report how fully they would talk with their spouses about each of the items, and also how fully they thought their spouse would talk with them about the same items. The responses were weighted in order to arrive at scores of verbal accessibility. The scale was administered to twenty-six couples who had requested conciliation services at the Court of Domestic Relations. The scale was constructed to measure verbal accessibility in such a way that persons as well as items could be ranked along a continuum from least accessible to most accessible. Scalogram analysis with the interaction and personality items for husbands and for wives produced a total of six scales. These scales appeared to reflect a dimension of self-protectiveness. There was no significant difference between the medians for husbands and wives, although the mean of the medians for husbands was slightly higher. Since this is in contrast to previous findings, we assumed that our sample was abnormal, biased, or both. Women did have a higher median score for interaction items, however, which may be due to the woman’s affective role in the family, and to the greater specificity of the interaction items. The scale appears to have potential for future use because it was able to elicit differential responses; items around such areas as sex and health had low accessibility and items around such areas as children and employment had higher accessibility. It was hypothesized that: 1) The more similar the marital partner’s verbal accessibility, the greater the likelihood of reconciliation. 2) The greater the marital partners’ assumed similarity of verbal accessibility the greater the likelihood of reconciliation 3) The higher the verbal accessibility on positive items, the greater the likelihood of reconciliation. 4) The higher the verbal accessibility on negative items, the less the likelihood of reconciliation. 5.) The higher the verbal accessibility of the respondent on positive and neutral items, the greater the likelihood of reconciliation. The data did not support the hypotheses. We concluded that our study was weakened by the small sample size, the lack of other measures of VA, and the uncertain significance of marital reconciliation. Responses apparently were biased by the stress of the situation, the desire to appear cooperative and the preponderance of female interviewers. We do not believe that the scores we obtained were actual measures of VA, but rather a reflection of the special situation of our subjects. Our sample appeared to have unique characterological, motivational, and interactional patterns which had an undetermined influence on our findings. We suggest that future research consider social, cultural and personality measures as part of any study of VA. Interactional patterns, orientations to marriage and barriers to marital breakdown down should also be studied. A normal sample would be useful for purposes of comparison.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


Portland State College. School of Social Work

Persistent Identifier