Methodological Issues in Group-Matching Designs: α Levels for Control Variable Comparisons and Measurement Characteristics of Control and Target Variables
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- Mervis, C.B. & Klein-Tasman, B.P. J Autism Dev Disord (2004) 34: 7. doi:10.1023/B:JADD.0000018069.69562.b8
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Group-matching designs are commonly used to identify the diagnosis-specific characteristics of children with developmental disabilities. In this paper, we address three issues central to the use of this design. The first concerns the α level to be used for considering groups to be matched on the control variable(s). The second involves the measurement characteristics of the control and target variables. We discuss the properties of standard scores, raw scores, and age equivalents and argue against the use of age equivalents. In addition, we consider the appropriateness of the commonly made prediction that groups that are matched for a control variable such as language ability or nonverbal reasoning ability but are not matched for chronological age should perform at equivalent levels on the target variable. Finally, we discuss issues related to the interpretation of significant between-group differences on the target variable, assuming groups are well-matched on the control variables, and describe the benefits of a method that focuses on characterizing a disorder on a case-by-case basis and then aggregating the cases, using the measures of sensitivity and specificity from signal detection theory.