How do I Analyze Thee? Let Me Count the Ways: Considering Empathy in Couple Relationships using Self and Partner Ratings


partner ratings, measurement, empathy


In this article we describe some of the benefits and challenges of using self ratings and ratings of the partner to measure empathy and similar terms in couple research. If both members of the dyad are assessed, there will be four measures of the same variable. How to use these 4 measures in research and clinical work is a central question in this paper. We demonstrate 3 different latent models that can be used to analyze these ratings based on different theoretical premises. Using empathy as the independent variable with a longitudinal sample of 275 couples, structural equation models are used to evaluate the strength of these models in predicting relationship satisfaction. The findings indicate that the model that is consistent with the social constructionist perspective that focuses on the perceptions within the same person is a good fit to the data. Other models that compare ratings between members of the dyad do not fit the data well. The results demonstrate that perceptions of empathy do have a significant influence on relationship satisfaction across time, especially for females. However, it is largely males' perceptions of empathy of the self and the partner that influence relationship satisfaction for females.

Original Publication Citation

Busby, D. M., & Gardner, B. C. (2008). How do I analyze thee? Let me count the ways: Considering empathy in couple relationships using self and partner ratings. Family Process, 47, 229-242.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Family Process




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor