Comment on Stanley by Gottman about prediction -1/6/99
Thu Jan 6 17:07:05 EST 2000
from: Smart Marriages
Comment on Stanley by Gottman about prediction:
I would like to comment on Scott Staley's piece on prediction. I
heartily agree that we can not confidently predict the fate of any one
indivdual couple, nor is it ethical to do so. We have no idea whether that
couple was represented in our samples on which our prediction was based.
So what we do is to say to couples that based on our work we can suggest
some strengths in their relationship and also some areas that may need
improvement. We make no other statements beyond that.
However, I would like to clear up a few points. In our early
studies indeed our "prediction" was looking backwards. However, the same
predictions have now replicated, and in subsequent studies it was indeed
prediction before the longitudinal data were in. We have now conducted 4
longitudinal studies in which our prediction data have held up.
The base rate problem Stanley raises is not as serious as he
suggests, because the statistical analyses give separate "correct
prediction rates" for both couples staying together and divorcing. Only
about 2 to 5 percent of couples divorce per year in any of our samples, so
predicting the divorced couples isn't that easy (base rate is low), and
yet we are near 100% for that group. Our errors are that we predict some
people will divorce who do not. We are starting to get a handle on that
problem now in our study of effective repair of negativity. Some very
negative couples wind up stable and even happy, and most of those, we are
discovering, are able to repair the negativity while they are still
arguing. And the basis of effective repair appears to be the quality of
the marital friendship.
Hope this contributes to the discussion about prediction.
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