Creating a Developmentally Sensitive Measure of Adolescent Alcohol Misuse

An Application of Item Response Theory

Published in: Substance use and misuse, v. 44, no. 6, May 2009, p. 835-847

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2008

by Maria Orlando Edelen, Daniel F. McCaffrey, Phyllis L. Ellickson, Joan S. Tucker, David J. Klein

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This study, funded by the US National Institute of Drug Abuse, evaluates the usefulness of item response theory (IRT) to create a developmental alcohol misuse scale. Data were collected during 1997-2006 from 5,828 Midwestern US students who completed annual surveys at grades 7 through 11 and 2 and 4 years after high school. Seventeen alcohol misuse items were calibrated with IRT and examined for differential item functioning (DIF) across 5 study waves. Eight items displayed DIF; in most cases, properties for items assessed 2 years after high school were different from those assessed in grades 8-11. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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