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.
Edelen, Maria Orlando, Lisa H. Jaycox, Daniel F. McCaffrey, and Grant N. Marshall, Improving the Measurement of Socially Unacceptable Attitudes and Behaviors With Item Response Theory. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2006. https://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WR383.html.
Edelen, Maria Orlando, Lisa H. Jaycox, Daniel F. McCaffrey, and Grant N. Marshall, Improving the Measurement of Socially Unacceptable Attitudes and Behaviors With Item Response Theory, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, WR-383, 2006. As of July 15, 2021: https://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WR383.html