Improving the Measurement of Socially Unacceptable Attitudes and Behaviors With Item Response Theory

by Maria Orlando Edelen, Lisa H. Jaycox, Daniel F. McCaffrey, Grant N. Marshall

Full Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.1 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Assessment of socially unacceptable behaviors and attitudes via self-report is likely to yield skewed data that may be vulnerable to measurement non-invariance. Item response theory (IRT) can help address these measurement challenges. This paper illustrates application of IRT to data from a teen dating violence intervention study. Three factors reflecting teens’ attitudes about dating violence were identified, and items from these 3 scales were subjected to IRT calibration and evaluated for differential item functioning (DIF) by gender. The IRT scores displayed superior measurement properties relative to the observed scale scores, and in 1 of the 3 factors, inferences about group mean differences were impacted by the presence of DIF. This application demonstrates how IRT analysis can improve measurement of socially unacceptable behaviors and attitudes.

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND Health.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Working paper series. RAND working papers are intended to share researchers' latest findings and to solicit informal peer review. They have been approved for circulation by RAND but may not have been formally edited or peer reviewed.

Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.

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.