This thesis explores why the divorce rate has remained relatively stable over the past few decades, even in the face of rapidly growing social sciences – particularly the branch associated with the study and treatment of marriage – through an analysis of the work of John Gottman. This thesis chiefly claims that divorce is not addressed in marital research. It is argued, however, that far from being intentional on the part of researchers, the disregard for divorce in the marital research is actually due to underlying, unrecognized assumptions. Specifically, this thesis analyzes the most fundamental assumptions – the ontological assumptions – upon which the investigation of marriage is conceptualized. The body is divided into three parts: First, the apparent absence of divorce in the marital literature is discussed, providing a starting point for the ontological analysis. Second, a section on ontology sets up the analysis. It begins with an introduction to two categories of ontological assumptions. These assumptive frameworks are used to guide the analysis of the marital literature. The final part analyzes John Gottman's research as a case example of the marital literature, uncovering the ontological assumptions of his work and demonstrating that many of his assumptions are potentially problematic for addressing divorce. After briefly wrapping up the arguments herein contained, the thesis discusses an alternative ontology which provides a framework whereby, if employed, marital researchers can begin to more adequately address the divorce epidemic.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Psychology



Date Submitted


Document Type





marriage, John Gottman, ontology, abstractionism, relationality, marital therapy, divorce, marital research, divorce rate

Included in

Psychology Commons