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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evaluating the error of measurement due to categorical scaling with a measurement invariance approach to confirmatory factor analysis Olson, Brent


It has previously been determined that using 3 or 4 points on a categorized response scale will fail to produce a continuous distribution of scores. However, there is no evidence, thus far, revealing the number of scale points that may indeed possess an approximate or sufficiently continuous distribution. This study provides the evidence to suggest the level of categorization in discrete scales that makes them directly comparable to continuous scales in terms of their measurement properties. To do this, we first introduced a novel procedure for simulating discretely scaled data that was both informed and validated through the principles of the Classical True Score Model. Second, we employed a measurement invariance (MI) approach to confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) in order to directly compare the measurement quality of continuously scaled factor models to that of discretely scaled models. The simulated design conditions of the study varied with respect to item-specific variance (low, moderate, high), random error variance (none, moderate, high), and discrete scale categorization (number of scale points ranged from 3 to 101). A population analogue approach was taken with respect to sample size (N = 10,000). We concluded that there are conditions under which response scales with 11 to 15 scale points can reproduce the measurement properties of a continuous scale. Using response scales with more than 15 points may be, for the most part, unnecessary. Scales having from 3 to 10 points introduce a significant level of measurement error, and caution should be taken when employing such scales. The implications of this research and future directions are discussed.

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