Psychometric properties of reverse-scored items on the CES-D in a sample of ethnically diverse older adults
Reverse-scored items on assessment scales increase cognitive processing demands and may therefore lead to measurement problems for older adult respondents. In this study, the objective was to examine possible psychometric inadequacies of reverse-scored items on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) when used to assess ethnically diverse older adults. Using baseline data from a gerontologic clinical trial (n = 460), we tested the hypotheses that the reversed items on the CES-D (a) are less reliable than nonreversed items, (b) disproportionately lead to intraindividually atypical responses that are psychometrically problematic, and (c) evidence improved measurement properties when an imputation procedure based on the scale mean is used to replace atypical responses. In general, the results supported the hypotheses. Relative to nonreversed CES-D items, the 4 reversed items were less internally consistent, were associated with lower item-scale correlations, and were more often answered atypically at an intraindividual level. Further, the atypical responses were negatively correlated with responses to psychometrically sound nonreversed items that had similar content. The use of imputation to replace atypical responses enhanced the predictive validity of the set of reverse-scored items. Among older adult respondents, reverse-scored items are associated with measurement difficulties. It is recommended that appropriate correction procedures such as item readministration or statistical imputation be applied to reduce the difficulties.
National Institute on Aging
CES-D, depression, reversed item format, older adults
Mike Carlson, Rand Wilcox, Chih-Ping Chou, Megan Chang, Frances Yang, Jeanine Blanchard, Abbey Marterella, Ann Kuo, and Florence Clark. "Psychometric properties of reverse-scored items on the CES-D in a sample of ethnically diverse older adults" Psychological Assessment (2011): 558-562. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022484