Cognitive orientations in adult intimate relationships: Validation of a self-report measure

Date of Completion

January 2005


Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Psychometrics




This research study was undertaken to develop a self-report instrument that assessed individuals' "cognitive orientations" towards adult intimate relationships. Based upon the social exchange theoretical perspective, cognitive orientation was defined as a set of personal beliefs, expectations, and goals held by individuals with regard to how they should contribute to and benefit from adult intimate relationships. The developed self-report measure---the "Cognitive Orientations Questionnaire" (COQ)---evaluated four types of cognitive orientations, namely "pure-self", "pure other", "exchange", and "joint self/other". ^ A second goal of this study was to provide preliminary evidence on the psychometric properties of this measure and to specifically evaluate its construct validity. Two conceptual models were proposed in order to assess the construct validity of the COQ. Both models examined the relation between individuals' cognitive orientation, their socialization experiences, and the characteristics of their current intimate relationship. More specifically, the evaluation of socialization experiences encompassed the individual's family of origin experiences regarding relational ethics and attachment characteristics. With regard to characteristics of the relationship, individuals' perception of partner's trustworthiness and their perceived dependence on the relationship were evaluated. In order to examine the relation among these variables, one of the models focused on the individual as the unit of analysis and the other assessed such relation at the dyadic level (couple). ^ Results based on a sample of 359 individuals (152 males and 207 females) suggested that the COQ evaluated four factors (cognitive orientations) and the four subscales had adequate levels of internal consistency reliability. Evaluation of measurement invariance indicated that the COQ was partially invariant across gender groups. With regard to the evaluation of construct validity at the individual level, correlations and multiple regression results provided support to the hypothesized relation between individuals' COQ scores, attachment dimensions, trust, and perceived dependence. However, there was no statistically significant relation between COQ scores and family of origin relational ethics. At the dyadic level, results indicated that there were statistically significant actor and partner effects of specific attachment dimensions, trust, and perceived dependence on individuals' cognitive orientations. Implications for future research on cognitive orientations and the developed self-report measure are discussed. ^