Covert Assessment of the Family System: Patterns, Pictures and Codes

  • Linda G. Bell (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis)
  • David C. Bell (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis)


Covert measures of the family system can tap concepts and discover patterns of which family members themselves are unaware and can avoid social desirability bias. Covert measures can be particularly useful in cross-cultural research and can avoid many pitfalls of language and translation. Three such measures which have been used cross-culturally are described. The first is a method of measuring triangulation of children by the parents based on patterns of agreement in a true-false questionnaire describing the family. The second is a projective measure in which family members as a group create a picture of their family distinguishing relationships between individuals and boundaries within and around the family. The third is a global coding scheme used to evaluate family processes from taped interaction.

Keywords: family assessment, covert measures, cross-cultural comparisons

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Published on
23 Jun 2017
Peer Reviewed