This study of differential item functioning in reports of delinquent behavior between black and white youth demonstrates the importance of considering measurement invariance when using self-reported delinquency scores to draw inferences about group differences, and the utility of measurement invariance analyses for helping to identify mechanisms that contribute to group differences generally.
The results of this study illustrate the importance of considering measurement invariance when using self-reported delinquency scores to draw inferences about group differences, and the utility of measurement invariance analyses for helping to identify mechanisms that contribute to group differences generally. Youth self-reports are a mainstay of delinquency assessment; however, making valid inferences about delinquency using these assessments requires equivalent measurement across groups of theoretical interest. This study examined whether a brief 10-item delinquency measure exhibited measurement invariance across non-Hispanic White (n = 6,064) and Black (n = 1,666) youth (ages 10–11 years old) in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study®). The researchers detected differential item functioning (DIF) in two items. Black youth were more likely to report being arrested or picked up by police than White youth with the same score on the latent delinquency trait. Although multiple covariates (income, urgency, and callous–unemotional traits) reduced mean-level difference in overall delinquency, they were generally unrelated to the DIF in the Arrest item. However, the DIF in the Arrest item was reduced in size and no longer significant after adjusting for neighborhood safety. (Published Abstract Provided)
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