Taxometric and related methods in relationships research


  • The work reported in this article was supported by NIMH grant R01 MH43857 to Alan P. Fiske. The author would like to thank Dr. Harold D. Grotevant and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Address correspondence to: Nick Haslam, Department of Psychology, New School for Social Research, 65 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10003. E-mail:


Research on personal relationships inescapably uses taxonomies for classifying people, relationships, and interpersonal processes and events, and often develops new ones. However, constructing a good taxonomy is no simple matter. Many existing classification methods have serious weaknesses, and they carry the risk of drawing taxonomic distinctions that are spurious. In addition, researchers frequently make unwarranted assumptions about the nature of the taxonomic categories that they employ in their work. This article introduces a family of quantitative methods for testing and generating taxonomies. Although they have seen little use to date outside of psychopathology, personality psychology, and behavioral genetics, these methods are versatile and readily adapted to the domain of personal relationships, where they offer many research possibilities. Three of the methods are illustrated in a study of elementary forms of relationships.