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

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

Read More

Access further information on this document at Substance use and misuse

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

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.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.