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J Pers Assess. 2013;95(2):129-40. doi: 10.1080/00223891.2012.725437. Epub 2012 Oct 2.

Scoring and modeling psychological measures in the presence of multidimensionality.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Confirmatory factor analytic studies of psychological measures showing item responses to be multidimensional do not provide sufficient guidance for applied work. Demonstrating that item response data are multifactorial in this way does not necessarily (a) mean that a total scale score is an inadequate indicator of the intended construct, (b) demand creating and scoring subscales, or (c) require specifying a multidimensional measurement model in research using structural equation modeling (SEM). To better inform these important decisions, more fine-grained psychometric analyses are necessary. We describe 3 established, but seldom used, psychometric approaches that address 4 distinct questions: (a) To what degree do total scale scores reflect reliable variation on a single construct? (b) Is the scoring and reporting of subscale scores justified? (c) If justified, how much reliable variance do subscale scores provide after controlling for a general factor? and (d) Can multidimensional item response data be represented by a unidimensional measurement model in SEM, or are multidimensional measurement models (e.g., second-order, bifactor) necessary to achieve unbiased structural coefficients? In the discussion, we provide guidance for applied researchers on how best to interpret the results from applying these methods and review their limitations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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