Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Barker, S. B., & Barker, R. T. (1990). Investigation of the construct validity of the Family Life Space Diagram. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 12, 506-514

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to examine the construct validity of the Family Life Space Diagram (FLSD). Specifically the intent was to determine if the physical distance between symbols drawn on the FLSD are indicative of the emotional distance between the persons and pets sympbolized. METHODS: Subjects included a purposeful sample of 122 dog owners from 13 states, Canada, and Great Britain. After completing the FLSD, which involved placing standard symbols to represent family members and dogs within a circle representing one’s life space, subjects drew a line to connect themselves to each entity drawn and wrote one word to label the relationship. Descriptors were placed on cards sorted by two independent raters into categories of close relationship, not a close relationship, and can’t tell/don’t know. Physical distance between the symbols were compared for close and not close relationship agreed upon by both raters. After testing for homogeneity of variances, the t test using Welch’s Behrens-Fisher correction for unequal variances was used to compare the distances corresponding to the two relationship types. RESULTS: Interrater reliability on sorting the 219 different descriptors into categories was 78%. T-test results revealed a statistically significant difference (p=.01) in physical distance between entities described as close versus not close. The family members and dogs drawn closer to the subject on the FLSD had relationships described using adjectives judged to represent closeness and family members and dogs drawn farther from subjects had relationships described using adjectives judged to represent relationships that are not close. CONCLUSIONS: These results lend support to the construct validity of the FLSD by indicating that physical distance between the symbols drawn provides an indication of the emotional relationship between the entities those symbols represent. Implications for mental health research and human animal bond research are discussed.