• Paul Yelsma, PhD, Professor, Department of Communication, Westen Mechigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008; e-mail:

  • Alan Hovestadt, EdD, Professor and Director of Marriage an Family Therapy Education, Department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology, Western Michigan Uuiversity; e-mail:

  • Willian t. Anderson, EdD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Family Sceieces, Texas Woman's University.

  • Johanna E. Nilsson, Assistant Professor, Department of Counseling Psychology and Counselor Education, University of Missouri-Kansas City.


The need for research instruments to assess the impact of affective expressiveness within the family is evident, yet few appear to be adequately designed for this purpose. In this article, we present two studies addressing this need. In the first study, the original 40-item Family-of-Origin Scale was administered to 416 students to determine those items that constitute the factor structure. This instrument was designed to assess perceived levels of health in the family of origin but has unsubstantiated construct validity. Results from a confirmatory factor analysis indicated that the instrument has one major factor, and results from five other studies provide evidence supporting the construct validity. Face validity of this 22-item construct indicates that it assesses an individual's perceived level of global expressive atmosphere within his or her family of origin. In the second study, the new Family-of-Origin Expressive Atmosphere Scale and the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale were administered to 295 students. Students' self-reported expressive atmospheres in their family-of-origin scores were significantly correlated with the total scores of alexithymia and each of the three factors: impaired ability to identify feelings, impaired ability to describe feelings, and externally oriented thinking processes. No significant gender differences were found.