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Multiple, correlated covariates associated with differential item functioning (DIF): Accounting for language DIF when education levels differ across languages

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Author(s): Laura Gibbons | Paul K. Crane | Kala M. Mehta | Otto Pedraza | Yuxiao Tang | Jennifer J. Manly | Kaavya Narasimhalu | Jeanne Teresi | Richard N. Jones | Dan Mungas

Journal: Ageing Research
ISSN 2036-7384

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Start page: e4;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: cognitive testing | item response theory | logistic regression | test bias | translation.

ABSTRACT
Differential item functioning (DIF) occurs when a test item has different statistical properties in subgroups, controlling for the underlying ability measured by the test. DIF assessment is necessary when evaluating measurement bias in tests used across different language groups. However, other factors such as educational attainment can differ across language groups, and DIF due to these other factors may also exist. How to conduct DIF analyses in the presence of multiple, correlated factors remains largely unexplored. This study assessed DIF related to Spanish versus English language in a 44-item object naming test. Data come from a community-based sample of 1,755 Spanish- and English-speaking older adults. We compared simultaneous accounting, a new strategy for handling differences in educational attainment across language groups, with existing methods. Compared to other methods, simultaneously accounting for language- and education-related DIF yielded salient differences in some object naming scores, particularly for Spanish speakers with at least 9 years of education. Accounting for factors that vary across language groups can be important when assessing language DIF. The use of simultaneous accounting will be relevant to other cross-cultural studies in cognition and in other fields, including health-related quality of life.
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