Family Crisis
The Usefulness of Guiding Theoretical Assumptions

What's Theory Got To Do With Family Crises?

Everything. - for students unfamiliar with the scientific method and the nature of finding things out in a systematic way, you will just have to take this on faith for a while. The mysteries surrounding family crises - why they exist, why they persist, why those in crisis have difficulty getting out of crisis- these things will stay mysteries and never be solved on a grand scale unless they are put in a theoretical context and thought about like an engineer tackles a design problem.

Clearing the Decks for Disciplined Abstractions

Whether or not one wishes to be classified as a theoretician, there is overwhelming evidence that everyone theorizes. Infants, as their attention is caught by a glittering object on the coffee table, make plans to have an oral understanding with that glowing thing. They begin to make semi-educated guesses, based on their past experiences, about the territory over which they will have to travel in order to quench their thirst for knowledge. In daily traffic, each driver is placing bets (making predictions) about the intentions and sobriety of the various elements in his or her field of vision - "I can make this light before it turns completely red."

Just like the social scientist, each of us in everyday life is using the past to predict the future, cataloging novel events that go against our best judgments, learning from our mistakes, and continuing to grow in our understanding of the world around us. One of the differences between everyday theorizing and theorizing using the scientific method is that theoretical errors in science rarely result in a trivial mouthful of ashes or a crumpled fender. Errors in science can have more far reaching consequences.

Another difference is that scientific theories are formal, disciplined abstractions of reality; whereas everyday bets are placed in a much more informal manner.

    • Formal means stated in precise language according to scientific convention - axioms, premises, hypotheses, logical statements.
    • Disciplined means a strict adherence to definitions and rules that results in an orderly explanation of things.
    • Abstractions of reality means that we take our observations of real life and generalize them to ideal life.
Theory isn't simply normal family life explained with big words. Family theorists have to agree that the family exists in the first place, and that it has a basic, identifiable form. We also have to share some ideas about the best way to observe the family and record our observations. Theories about the families always begin with a definition of the family so that readers may all begin at the same conceptual place.

When we think of the concept "family", one of the very first impressions we get is a man, a woman, young children, and maybe a pet or two - all living happy lives together. I'll bet they are even eating breakfast, or standing on a front porch. That is an ideal family and one that is accepted by most of the culture, even among those who are divorced, come from abusive childhoods, were orphaned, and even among those whose sexual orientation is something other than the norm.

This concept is ideal and abstract, but it isn't disciplined, or formal.

One way to define family is in terms of what it looks like and the functions it serves.
What if we could formulate a definition that allows a group of people to be more or less a family, depending on the number of definitional elements they possess?
Formally stated, let us say a family:

    1. Has at least one adult person in charge of making family decisions.
    2. Has a division of labor that allows each person specific tasks to perform.
    3. Allows opportunities for members to engage in economic, social, and emotional exchanges - they do things for each other.
    4. Allows members to share things in common, such as food, residence, goods & services.
    5. Affords relations among members: parents relating to children, children to parents, all based on some line of authority, each member with rights and obligations to all others.
    6. Is functional to all members in terms of affection, sexuality, protection, and the transmission of wisdom.
This way, a family with only one adult is still a family, with limitations, as is a family if two members are abusive, or someone in the family has a drug problem. We now have to use scientific discipline to measure each of the elements of our definition so that we can apply our definition uniformly to any and all families that we wish to observe.

In making observations, we now have the ability to judge whether or not differences exist between families who fully fit the definition and those who have limitations. Before we know it we are thinking like scientists and doing research and becoming famous. Pretty neat!

Definition of Theory
Before we get too smart too fast, let's try out some other definitions. What exactly is a theory in the scientific sense of the word? It is a rhetorical question, so I'll tell you. "Theories are the means by which science realizes its goals, which are to classify and organize (describe) events so that they make sense, to explain the past and predict the future, and to offer an "intuitively pleasing sense of understanding why and how events should occur." (Turner, 1974: 2).

Did you get that?
The goals of science are to describe, explain and predict.
This is a very big deal, so don't forget it. In this definition, the three main goals of any theory are present.

  • Conceptual principles comprise the descriptive function of theory.
  • Hypothetical principles comprise the explanatory function of theory.
  • Pragmatic principles form the basis for the predictive function of theory.
That is what theory does - it describes, explains, and predicts.

A theory suggests a model, or representation, of the "way things are". Theories make order out of chaos because they organize the parts of the world (the universe, reality, everyday life) into logical, coherent, understandable relationships.

Jonathan Turner (1978) terms this "the problem of order", which is also known as the Hobbesian Question: ("How is order possible" in a world where everyone competes for scarce resources in order to survive?). Sociologists tend to agree that order is possible because of each person's dependency, or connectedness, to the social world in which they exist.

Think for a moment about any family as it begins its day. The sun is coming up, an alarm clock awakens the designated early riser - for our purposes, let us use a mother. This is the first evidence of connectedness - We have to get up in time to prepare for the day: Mom gets out of bed, nudges a snoozing father awake and pushes him toward the shower, shakes sleepy children awake, then goes downstairs to prepare the morning meal (the most important meal of the day!). She flips the radio or television on (media dependency) so that the predicted temperature and weather patterns for the day can determine the clothing everyone will use. She likes Channel 8 weather because the announcer is apologetic when it is going to be nasty outside.

Sensitive to the absence of movement noises upstairs, and knowing the other members of the family as she does, she stands at the foot of the stairwell and hurls a few threats up the steps ("Don't make me have to come up there!"). Children jump up, go into the bathroom - first one, then the others in semi-orderly fashion ("YOU used all of the hot water again!").

This ritual implies the family's adaptation to changing social demands. Only a few decades ago, we washed the day's labor off our bodies at night before supper, especially when we earned a living with our muscles. As we retired, or reallocated, our muscles to tennis and racquetball courts and the running trail, and began to work in less physical occupations, we discovered the need to start the day fresh and clean instead of ending the day that way.

Children put on freshly pressed clothing, generally finding socks in their sock drawer, underwear in its proper place, and shirts hanging in the closet. One by one, family members are lured downstairs by the aroma of breakfast. While children eat and stare at the back of the cereal box, mother makes an informal inspection, evaluating the performance of the morning rituals. Money is dispensed for school buses, lunches, or special events. Homework is checked for errors and completeness. Corrections in clothing choices are made and kids are shooed out the door with a "have a good day". Alone for a few moments, mother and father make plans to meet up at the end of the day ("What time will you be home tonight?").

Interestingly, this ritual is played out in thousands of homes every morning during the school year. Rarely is there a serious disagreement. In fact, there is very little talk at all.

  • How is order possible with so much potential for conflict or error?
  • How are patterns of family organization created, maintained, and changed?
To answer these questions, theory must classify and organize the events in everyday life, explain causes of past events and predict when, where and under what conditions future events will occur, and to offer a sense of understanding of why and how things happen the way they do. Theory accomplishes all of this in an orderly fashion, beginning with the isolation and definition of concepts, and the forming of hypothetical relationships between concepts. These are the building blocks of theory.

Family Theory's Building Blocks
Concepts are abstractions which name phenomena and strive for uniform meaning for all to use. Some concepts are easy to understand, others are not. For example, the concept of family rules is what allows us to read the morning ritual vignette above and understand why the sibling who used all the hot water did not die a horrible death at the hands of a chilled brother or sister. This concept is easily understood because all families have rules, even though all families have different sets of rules.

The existence of a standard operating procedure is what allows the efficient performance of the morning ritual. Perhaps not as easily understood is the concept of love and affection. While we are perfectly comfortable using the term "love", we are rarely sure that we are in love, or that we are in love as deeply as we have the potential to be.

Scientific understanding of concepts is provided by the use of operational definitions. Each concept must be measurable. We have to be able to recognize the concept in order to gauge its relation to other concepts in the family.

Family rules are sometimes invoked by members in normal interaction

  • "Ummmmm! You're not supposed to say that word! I'm telling!"
  • "Keep it up, Buster, and I'm going to make you have a time out on the steps."
  • "If you slam that screen door one more time, there's going to be real trouble around here!"
Operational definitions of love might simply consist of the number of times a term of endearment is used, or the amount of physical touching that occurs when family members are in close proximity.

Hypothetical statements link concepts together in a causal or correlational manner.  For example, a family with negotiated rules will exhibit less conflict than a family in which rules are set down from authority figures. When sets of hypothetical statements are collected together, the result is a theory. The morning ritual vignette is probably true for only a few hundred thousand families in the United States, however it is true enough to be recognized as an ideal type of ritual that normal families might perform..

To be able to generalize this theory to all families, we have to include variations in the ritual according to the gender and age composition of families, the socioeconomic status of families, the historical epoch and the culture in which the ritual is being performed. In order to achieve complete theory status, our theory must be applicable to every family everywhere, or else it is a delimited theory. Most theories fall short of this global attribute because they fail to include one or another important concepts. Thus, students of the family often hear charges that their favorite theory (and there are a great many little theories) is a "middle class theory" or is "wives' sociology" since lower and working class families are excluded or because only the testimony of wives is used to substantiate the theory's validity.

There are a great many theories for another reason. In order to make theoretical statements, one must make assumptions from which to construct hypothetical arguments.

Assumptive Dimensions of Theory
Are we starting to bog down a bit? This is slow going, but have faith, because the scientific method requires it. Assumptions do not have to be proven or tested because they are taken to be true prior to theorizing. They are conceptual starting places, much like personal values or biases. There are at least seven assumptive dimensions upon which existing theories can be classified (see Figure 1).

In order to study anything, the student must begin by making some assumptions about the nature of what is to be studied. The ancient Greeks believed that the world was run according to the whims of a group of petty, human-like gods. My grandmother believes that she can remove warts by praying and rubbing the afflicted area of the body. Some of the social philosophers one may read about believe that a set of natural laws exist under which social life is determined - sort of a Social Physics.

However, all scientists believe that the universe is orderly and that it operates in "normal" regularity. This regularity, the laws, principles, and properties, of human social life exists whether we discover it or not. Theories that strive to describe, explain and predict individual development are generally psychological in content and take the individual as the unit of analysis. Concepts such as intelligence, motivation, and unique personal experiences are often used to deal with variations in individual personality development.

When the unit of analysis becomes a group, such as the family, the theory becomes sociological in content. The mechanistic-organismic dimension ranges from the view that individual behavior is completely determined by forces outside the individual on the one hand to the view that individuals have completely free will on the other. The mechanistic assumption views individuals as simple reactors to stimuli. Working under this assumption, all behavior could be seen as pain avoiding or comfort seeking. The organismic view allows the individual to choose between good and evil, right and wrong, and it assumes that individuals are motivated to actively stimulate change in the environment.

Objective theories, such as Skinnerian behavioral theory, explain actual behavior without attempting to describe or explain unique or personal motivations or thought processes. Subjective theories, such as Maslow's developmental theory of the hierarchy of needs, are more concerned with why individuals behave in specific ways than in the behavior exhibited. Introspective theories rely on reports from subjects, while extraspective theories assume the observations of subjects by trained clinicians to be more accurate.

Theories can be formally stated, as is the case of the tenets of behavioral psychology, or they may be informally expressed, as is the case of sociology's grounded theory, or in many qualitative studies. Finally, there is the abstract/concrete continuum. Psychoanalytic theories of personality development operate within a set of concepts that are far removed from actual behavior. While one might be able to observe a child steal candy from another and call the behavior selfish, an abstract theory might assume that the part of the personality that emitted the behavior was the Id, where all desires and appetites reside. Good theories do not violate their own assumptions, however many of the family theories used in social science today aren't developed enough to specifically state their positions on each of the assumptive dimensions.

The Functions of Theory One More Time
Theory describes situations and events, as nearly as possible, as they occur in reality. Theoretical statements about some aspect of family life should paint a meaningful and accurate picture of the events in question. When reading scholarly literature about the differences between girls and boys as they develop through adolescence, for example, one should be able to imagine the reality of a typical teenager as he or she normally matures. Theory delimits the picture of family life it creates by cropping reality to exclude portions of social organization not covered by the theory. Social and psychological theories should specifically state to which groups, to what portions of the population, or to whom the theory applies.

This feature allows social scientists to generalize theory in specific ways. Adolescent development will obviously be different for boys versus girls, for Koreans compared to Canadians, and for rich and poor teens. Thus, a theory of adolescent development would necessarily specify appropriate delimiting factors. Theory explains, or provides the "why" of, various aspects of individual experience and social events. For example, theories dealing with teenage pregnancy should explain why so many teens find themselves pregnant even though information about contraception is readily available. A good theory will explain events using "relational" statements (i.e., as self-esteem increases among teenage girls, their risk of premarital pregnancy decreases). Finally, theory predicts behavior or events. Often the prediction is inherent in the explanation. Given the statement about self-esteem and pregnancy, we could theoretically predict outcome (i.e., if parents, teachers, and others increase the number of self-esteem building messages aimed at teenage girls, this will effectively reduce the number of pregnant teenagers over time).

These are some of the rules that guide the generation of social theories. However, social theory is constantly evolving as more and more theory based research is initiated and completed. This means that theories start out rather imprecisely. They often lack one or more of the functions of description, delimitation, explanation, and prediction. Social scientists, like their counterparts in the "hard sciences", often talk about the cumulative nature of the field. Theory is continually in a state of refinement as research interests conspire to test each and every component of the theory under a wide range of conditions.

Robert King Merton, a well known theoretician in sociology, said this: "For in building the mansion of sociology during the last decades, theorist and empiricist have learned to work together ... All this has led not only to the realization that theory and empirical research should interact but to the result that they do interact." (Merton, 1967: 156).

This idea of theorizing and empirical testing, followed by refinement of theory and further testing applies to all of social science. Merton is said to have uttered one of the classic lines in sociology. Loosely paraphrased, he said that we stand on the shoulders of giants in order to have the vision that we now take for granted. In other words, the precision and sophistication of our knowledge base continues to mount up over time to the point that mediocre thinkers of today can solve problems that brilliant minds of yesterday could not even conceive.

There is easily more scientific "truth" in a seventh grade science book than was possessed by the entire population of the earth during the 17th century. Sometimes, as we sit in front of our microcomputers, clicking away at the keyboard, deeply involved in word processing, we may forget about the problems under which our intellectual forebearers scratched out a little theory. But we can get an inkling of the enormity of the task of fundamental thought set upon by those early philosopher/scientists.

Make a list of the inventive contributors who made your personal computer a desktop reality.
Begin with the person who first discovered fire, because that is one factor needed to extract the copper in the little wires from its ore. Along these lines, the importance of social scientific history is illustrated in Figure 2. It is extremely important that we know the giants on whose shoulders we stand. The names here are only a few of the many thinkers who have contributed to our theoretical understanding of the family (Mullins, 1973). It is a genealogy of dissertation teachers and students who became teachers with students. The linkages in the figure represent classroom contacts. To update the theory family tree for yourself would require inquiries of your own professors about their old teachers.

As one of my students, you may be interested to know that you have a direct, intellectual "blood line" to the beginnings of American pragmatic philosophy, the Dewey Decimal System, and the very foundations of modern social scientific thought. The point is that social science has come a long way since 1900. As new students of family development, you are preparing to do your part to extend the discipline's knowledge base. Think about these names for a minute. You know most of them.

The Chicago School was famous for developing theories about social disorganization, the sociology of knowledge, pragmatic philosophy, and symbolic interaction theory. The Harvard School was the site of the birth of Structural Functional Theory. Among the Modern Family Theorists are Jesse Bernard ("his and her" marriage), Ira Reiss (sex in America), Willard Waller (rating and dating in mate selection), and Reuben Hill (Hill's ABC-X theory of family dismemberment and crisis). Robin Williams wrote the best book on American Society ever published.

William Foote Whyte pioneered direct observation techniques of qualitative methodology in his study of the urban experience (and Whyte also invented that little wheel with clips that waiters attach orders to in restaurants!). Balswick and his student Peek conceptualized the "inexpressive male," Nancy Bell took her methodology courses from medical sociologist and jazz musician Howard Becker. All this potential knowledge and understanding has hopefully been passed down from teacher to student over the years.

A point not illustrated by Figure 2 is that around 1950, theoreticians became familiar with the techniques of research, and put to use the advances in computer technology of the times. Not one name on the list has achieved theoretical prominence without doing research. This is the next important part of the discussion about theory.

The Theory - Methodology Connection
Merton tells us that theory and research are linked together by logic and observation. One of the most popular research methodology textbooks available today is Earle Babbie's The Practice of Social Research (1993), now in its sixth edition. In it Babbie illustrates the cumulative nature of science and the principles by which social theory is created by theorizing about social relationships and then testing hypotheses.

We'll get back to Babbie's ideas in a moment. But first we have to understand the scientific method.

Here's a discussion about the scientific method and why it is important to think about that which one intends to theorize about. Here, a boy, his father, and some friends are camping by the side of the road. It is night and everyone is gazing into the campfire: After a while he says,

"Do you believe in ghosts?" "No," I say. "Why not?", Chris asks. "Because they are un-sci-en-ti-fic", I say. "They contain no matter and have no energy and therefore, according to the laws of science, do not exist except in people's minds."

I add, "Of course, the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people's minds. It is best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science. That way you're safe. That doesn't leave you very much to believe in, but that's scientific too."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Chris says. "One of the kids at YMCA camp says he believes in ghosts". "He was just spoofing you." "No he wasn't. He said that when people haven't been buried right, their ghosts came back to haunt people. He really believes in that." "What's his name?" Sylvia says. "Tom White Bear." "Ohhh, Indian!" . . . "I guess I'm going to have to take that back a little. I was thinking of European ghosts."

"What's the difference?" John roars with laughter. "He's got you," He says. "Well, Indians sometimes have a different way of looking at things, which I'm not saying is completely wrong. Science isn't part of the Indian Tradition. I guess I believe in ghosts too. My own opinion is that the intellect of modern man isn't that much different." "Those Indians and medieval men were just as intelligent as we are, but the context in which they thought was completely different. Within that context of thought, ghosts and spirits are quite as real as atoms, particles, photons and quants are to a modern man. In that sense I believe in ghosts. Modern man has his ghosts and spirits too, you know. The laws of physics and of logic ... the number system ... the principle of algebraic substitution. These are ghosts. We just believe in them so thoroughly that they seem real." "I don't get it", says Chris. (Pirsig, 1974: 28-29).

To help his son, and himself, understand the difference between Indian and European ghosts, the father begins to tell his theory about solving mysteries using logic and science. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance continues:

Mysteries. You're always surrounded by them. But if you tried to solve them all, you'd never get (anything done). Take Nature - When you've really hit a tough one, tried everything, racked your brain and nothing works and you know this time Nature has really decided to be difficult, you say "Okay, Nature, that's the end of the nice guy," and you crank up the formal scientific method. For this you keep a lab notebook.

Everything gets written down, formally, so that you know at all times where you are, where you've been, where you're going and where you want to get....otherwise the problems get so complex you get lost in them and confused and forget what you know and what you don't know and have to give up.

The logical statements entered into the notebook are broken down into six categories:

  • 1) statement of the problem,
  • 2) hypotheses as to the cause of the problem,
  • 3) experiments designed to test each hypothesis,
  • 4) predicted results of the experiments,
  • 5) observed results of the experiments and
  • 6) conclusions from the results of the experiments.
This is just like a high school or college lab project, but the purpose here is no longer busy work. The purpose now is precise guidance of thoughts that will fail if they are not accurate. The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn't misled you into thinking you know something you don't actually know. There's not a scientist or mechanic alive who hasn't suffered from that one so much that he is not instinctively on guard. That's the main reason why so much scientific and mechanical information sounds so dull and so cautious. If you get careless or go romanticizing scientific information, giving it a flourish here and there, Nature will soon make a complete fool out of you. From Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Pirsig, 1974),

Pirsig's novel is absolutely delightful. If you haven't read it, you probably would benefit from it.
In just a few pages, he illustrates the reasons why we should rely on the scientific method when attempting to uncover "truths" or "facts" - that nothing is so simple and straightforward that it can simply be true or right.

Science allows us to create an environment within which our little models of reality will work for the time being. Our theory will be tested and interpreted and published. And it may be right for a month, a year or a decade. But sooner or later, it will fade in its "truthfulness", and then we have to start over. We try (sometimes we make fools of ourselves in the process) to be precise and exact, faithfully employing scientific methodology that has worked in the past.

The family studies field has been applying scientific principles for some time. A mainline text for courtship and marriage courses in the 1950s supported conservative advice to young women on the subject of "physical contact in dating success". Keep in mind, this advice was based on research findings:

    "In dating, the question of how far to go in physical contact is a matter of considerable importance to women. Playing the passive role in dating as they do by custom, having dates represents a kind of competitive achievement for women. Being able to hold the interest of the male is a constant problem . Sex plays a part in this. Waller believed that girls in competitive courtship situations, particularly where males are in the minority, have to compromise on sexual morality in order to keep the male from breaking up the relationship. One hundred and forty-one young men and 258 young women at the University of Minnesota were asked: Did you give in on important moral or theoretical issues for fear of losing him or her? Eighty-one percent of the women denied having done so. Girls who indulge in close forms of physical intimacy rationalize that only if they do so can they have dates. The girls holding the opposite view, however, seem to be correct. Studies of attitudes on college campuses over a period of more than ten years show that most college students do not believe moral compromise necessary for popularity. One may be sure that many students are speaking from experience." (Landis, 1955: 129-130).
Just when we think we are on the verge of tying a whole group of ideas together into a neat little package, someone invents a contraceptive so reliable that the entire case for chastity dissolves. Obviously, the expectation of marrying a virgin, or being a virgin upon one's marriage appears to be a thing of the past for a great majority of Americans.

While Kinsey reported that about 1/3 of 21-25 year-old women had had premarital intercourse in 1953, the 1980's heralded, not only the AIDS virus, but also an 80% rate of premarital intercourse among women of that age group, a rate that continues to rise. In terms of our discussion, what has changed in the interim between the two reports?

Additionally, the age for first premarital intercourse for women is also dropping - about half the females in the 15-19 year-old category had premarital intercourse, 1/3 of the young women in the 12-15 year-old category. It would appear that premarital sex has become an acceptable and established pattern in our society, especially when sex takes place in intimate relationships such as serious dating, engagement, and cohabitation.

And one of the big reasons for this dramatic increase in sexual activity, and the change in ATTITUDE about sex for young women was the placement of reliable contraceptives in the hands of the women who would use them.

Have you ever wondered how "they" can say "that" about "them"? In other words, how does a social scientist use the scientific method to describe, explain, and predict human behavior and attitudes? According to Professor Babbie, she should begin with theory - with an interest in some aspect of the real world. Maybe an informed opinion about the alleged difference between males and females in their attitudes and behaviors regarding sexuality. Her informal theory might hold that women are not as intentionally sexy as men (at least among those born before the end of World War II).

She must state her theory precisely. After spending some hours in the library, searching the database for titles about her subject, she emerges with all the scholarship on the subject since the beginning of time (that's about 1950 for social science). Her theory is beginning to take shape as she puts her notes together into

The Theory of Gender Differences on the Subject of Sex.

    1. Things have changed.
    2. While there have always been exceptions, in general men have been more willing to discuss sexuality than have women.
    3. Men are more casual in their approach of the subject of sex, and are more single-minded in their quest for sex.
    4. Men tend to think about sex more than women.
    5. There are fewer differences between the genders now than in the past.
How is she going to go about testing her theory? Look at Figure 3.

From her theoretical statements, she will have to deduce hypotheses (good old deductive logic is the method used). If it is true that men have always been more willing to discuss sexuality than have women, then they ought to have a larger vocabulary of words describing sex, right?
So Hypothesis number one is:
H1: Men will have a greater vocabulary of sex words than women.

If men are more casual in their approach, then they should feel less commitment to the people with whom they engage in sex, right? So Hypothesis #2 is:
H2: Men are less likely than women to commit to a person after sexual encounters with that person.

Finally, things seem to have changed. If that is true, then older people will exhibit stronger differences on H1 and H2 when compared to younger people, or Hypothesis #3.
H3: Differences on H1 and H2 increase with the age of the respondent/subject.

The methods that get our social scientist from the hypothesis stage to the observation stage of theory construction are many. First, she has to operationalize each of the concepts in all three hypotheses. This refers to a specification of the steps, procedures, or operations necessary to accurately and precisely measure each concept.

Remember: Concepts are abstract, while measures are concrete. Concepts reside in the minds of people, like ghosts and the laws of science. Measures reside in rules, on paper, in tools.

Operationalizing gender is easy enough. On the questionnaire, simply type in:
Please check one: SEX ___ Male ___ Female
For the moment we will forget the research on androgyny that suggests gender to be a continuum rather than a dichotomy (a range of masculinity to femininity rather than one or the other).

Age of respondent is also pretty easily obtained: What is the year of your birth? _______

Vocabulary size proves more difficult to measure. She could ask respondents to write down all of the words that they can think of for male or female anatomy, then count the number of entries. We could think of many other ways to measure this concept. To measure the commitment-after-sex concept, she could ask respondents about their past relationships and whether or not they ever had sex with a partner who was less committed to the relationship than they were.

With measures for every concept in every hypothesis, our practitioner needs to draw a representative sample - with respondents from both genders, and a wide age range. She might also want to insure that the sample is not biased some way (i.e., all Presbyterians, mostly Hell's Angels, etc.).

After sampling is accomplished, she is ready to apply her measuring instrument and make observations, then data can be collected. At this point (all observations are made), the social scientist is ready to analyze the data and make her comparisons based on age and gender. Depending on the quality of the measures and the representativeness of the sample and the soundness of the logic used to derive hypotheses, she should be able to generalize her findings to the larger population.

She is saying "My findings hold for all men and women everywhere." Using inductive logic, she is able to consider her theory in view of her current findings. If no differences were found between men and women when age was taken into account, she could say that her theory stands without amendment.

If she found that men and women differ regardless of their birth year, she would have to amend her theory since H3 was rejected. And so on - considering each hypothesis in view of the data and inductively modifying her theoretical position.

This is a brief example. Obviously, more stringent measurement, or finer distinctions in hypotheses could make for big changes in findings. Thus the connection between theory and methodology.

Also, only one study does not a test of theory make.
She will have to continue to test this theory with a variety of measures and samples to come close to a complete test of the theory. However, over time, with many researchers at work on the same theory, the cumulative nature of science begins to transform what we know about boys and girls and sex and age.

It is much easier to rely on past information, allowing nature to fool us into thinking we know more than we really do know. Pirsig is correct - it isn't very romantic to be so precise and accurate all the time. But there are specific times when there is no substitute for precision. One such time is when our car is stalled in a rough part of town in the middle of the night. In our driveway, we could caress it and speak softly to it in the ridiculous belief that it can feel and hear us. On the dangerous avenues of American cities, we become the epitome of precision, if we have it in us. At least we wish, with all our heart, that we had taken auto shop in high school instead of art.

Another appropriate time for precision, conservative and informed opinions, and sheer awareness is when we are in the service of the family. Advocates of the family need to be able to cut through inaccuracies with a superior knowledge base. Families are betting their very existence on our ability to do so. In the next chapter, We deal specifically with the subject of the purpose of theory in the study of the family. While you read, keep in mind the thousands of young women who failed to maintain their virginity after reading the Landis text in 1955. Even with his best estimates, Landis failed to question his data enough.