Early research on the psychological contract was primarily interview-driven (e.g. Argyris, 1962; Levinson, 1962). Attempts to quantify the psychological contract have only been fairly recently developed, although there is now a plethora of different approaches. Most of these measurement attempts are underpinned by the assumption that psychological contracts are cognitive- perceptual constructs, as espoused by Rousseau (1989, 1995) which means that (a) the self-report method is deemed the most valid way of accessing them (see for example, Pearce, 1997) and (b) that they are held by employees (not the employer) which means that they can be investigated form one viewpoint alone. As will be demonstrated, there are exceptions to the second of these principles, particularly in contemporary ways of exploring psychological contracts.

Measurement attempts can be divided into two main approaches: content (identifying the obligations and terms that employees hold themselves to be party to in the employment relationship, describing the types of relationship which predominate) (e.g. Robinson, Kraatz & Rousseau, 1994; Hutton & Cummins, 1997), and process measures (pertaining to the dynamic aspects of contract fulfilment and violation, such as whether an obligation has or has not been met) (e.g. Robinson & Rousseau, 1994; Robinson, 1996). The majority of published research is content-oriented, focusing on contractual obligations, although process research is on the increase. It should be noted, however, that process research is concerned with contract violation and not the psychological contract per se, which means that questions concerning the contracting process itself have yet to be formally addressed.

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