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17-08-2017 | Special Section: Test Construction (by invitation only) | Uitgave 7/2018

Quality of Life Research 7/2018

Measurement invariance, the lack thereof, and modeling change

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 7/2018
Michael C. Edwards, Carrie R. Houts, R. J. Wirth
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The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s11136-017-1673-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Measurement invariance issues should be considered during test construction. In this paper, we provide a conceptual overview of measurement invariance and describe how the concept is implemented in several different statistical approaches. Typical applications look for invariance over things such as mode of administration (paper and pencil vs. computer based), language/translation, age, time, and gender, to cite just a few examples. To the extent that the relationships between items and constructs are stable/invariant, we can be more confident in score interpretations.


A series of simulated examples are reported which highlight different kinds of non-invariance, the impact it can have, and the effect of appropriately modeling a lack of invariance. One example focuses on the longitudinal context, where measurement invariance is critical to understanding trends over time. Software syntax is provided to help researchers apply these models with their own data.


The simulation studies demonstrate the negative impact an erroneous assumption of invariance may have on scores and substantive conclusions drawn from naively analyzing those scores.


Measurement invariance implies that the links between the items and the construct of interest are invariant over some domain, grouping, or classification. Examining a new or existing test for measurement invariance should be part of any test construction/implementation plan. In addition to reviewing implications of the simulation study results, we also provide a discussion of the limitations of current approaches and areas in need of additional research.

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