Co-writer of test widely used in marriage and family counseling

Times Staff Writer

Robert M. Taylor, a psychologist and psychotherapist who co-wrote the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis Test used as a tool in marriage and family counseling, has died. He was 88.

Taylor, a former director of the American Institute of Family Relations, died of natural causes July 16 at his home in Marina del Rey, said his daughter, Jamie Taylor Werner.

After working as a therapist and marriage counselor for more than 10 years, Taylor developed his test with a colleague, Lucille Morrison, based on a personality assessment test created earlier by psychologist Roswell H. Johnson in the 1940s.

Taylor’s version, first made widely available in 1966, consists of 180 questions that measure nine personality traits significant in personal relationships. Test results showed, for example, whether a person is dominant or submissive, expressive or inhibited, self-disciplined or impulsive.


“These traits are critical in interpersonal relations,” said David Davidson-Methot, an Episcopal priest and psychotherapist in Gilbert, Ariz., who has used the Taylor-Johnson test to counsel engaged as well as married couples.

Areas of potential conflict surface through the test, such as, “If I’m a neat freak and you’re a slob, how are we going to make this work?” Davidson-Methot said.

The test also indicates how couples perceive each other. “It can show how much one person is projecting onto the other versus how each person really is,” Davidson-Methot said. Discovering that can lead to resolving some issues, he said.

Taylor became interested in psychological testing for marriage counseling in the late 1950s after he was appointed director of the American Institute of Family Relations in Los Angeles. He used Johnson’s test to treat private patients and also taught clinicians how to use it. Over time, he decided to revise and update many of the questions.


“In his years of working with couples, my father saw that the test was a quick, efficient way to capture a picture of their strengths and their possible problems,” said Taylor Werner, who worked with her father for many years. “Showing a couple the results of the test was like showing them an X-ray.”

As more therapists became interested in the test, Taylor launched a business, Psychological Publications, in 1966 to promote it, fill sales orders and arrange training sessions. His wife, Sybil, did the bookkeeping and his three children helped in the office during summer months. Taylor’s daughter Jamie joined the business after finishing college and later became director when he retired in 1988.

The company now has about 35,000 accounts. Most of them are marriage and premarital counselors but some are social workers, family therapists or trained members of the clergy. The military, school counselors and prison counselors also have used the test, which is available in seven languages.

“In the test-publishing field, Mr. Taylor’s work is widely respected,” said Carol Watson, an executive with Pearson Assessments in Minneapolis, a company that distributes the Taylor-Johnson test. “His pride in his work and belief in what he was doing was impressive.”

Taylor was born Dec. 23, 1919, in Pittsburgh, and graduated from Pennsylvania State University. He also earned a master’s degree in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.

He served in the Army during World War II and was stationed at a military hospital in England, where he treated soldiers with psychological problems. “Today we would classify their problem as post-traumatic stress,” Taylor Werner said.

Taylor married Sybil Ross in 1944. The couple moved to Los Angeles in 1948. Along with his work at the American Institute of Family Relations, Taylor kept up a private practice for about 30 years. His wife died in 2001.

In addition to his daughter Jamie, he is survived by a son, Dr. Steven Taylor of San Francisco; another daughter, artist Melanie Taylor of Los Angeles; a brother, Alex Taylor of Los Angeles; two sisters, Dorothy Chilkov of Beverly Hills and Shirley Smith of Phoenix; and eight grandchildren.