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ADHD Parent and Teacher Symptom Ratings: Differential Item Functioning across Gender, Age, Race, and Ethnicity

Abstract

Parent and teacher ratings of the two attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptom dimensions (i.e., inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity) have been found to differ across child gender, age, race, and ethnicity. Group differences could be due to actual variation in symptomatic behaviors but also could be due to measurement items functioning differently based on child characteristics. This study extended prior investigations establishing measurement invariance at the symptom dimension and item levels, by examining possible measurement variance across child demographic characteristics at the item level (i.e., differential item functioning [DIF]) in two large national samples. Using the Rasch rating scale model (Andrich Psychometrika, 43, 561–73, 1978), we examined DIF of the 18 ADHD symptoms in samples of 2079 children (n = 1037 males) from 5 to 17 years old (M = 10.7; SD = 3.8) rated by parents and 1070 children (n = 535 males) aged from 5 to 17 years old (M = 11.5; SD = 3.5) rated by teachers. All but six ADHD symptom items showed DIF across child age, gender, race (Black vs. White), and ethnicity with more items showing DIF for age than for gender, race, or ethnicity. For child gender and age, more items showed DIF for parent than for teacher ratings. More items showed DIF across racial groups for teacher than for parent ratings. Only two parent- and teacher-rated items showed DIF for ethnicity. Implications of findings for practice, research, and future iterations of ADHD diagnostic criteria are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Some studies have found ADHD symptom ratings to comprise three or more dimensions (e.g., Merrell & Tymms, 2003; Tymms & Merrell, 2011), and confirmatory factor analyses of the ARS-5 supported both a two-factor and three-factor structure. Because there was no substantive difference between these models, a two-factor solution consistent with the DSM-5 was applied.

  2. 2.

    The 1-PL IRT and the dichotomous Rasch models are mathematically the same, with one free item parameter—item difficulty—for estimation. Both the 2- and 3-PL IRT models include an additional item parameter—item discrimination. Further, the 3-PL IRT estimates an extra pseudo-guessing parameter. In spite of their mathematical and measurement connection with each other, many researchers see the Rasch model as being fundamentally different from other IRT models (e.g., 1-, 2-, and 3-PL IRT). For instance, the Rasch model is more prescriptive than descriptive, requiring data to fit the model expectations, rather than the other way to explain as much variance in data as possible (Andrich, 2004; Boone, Staver, & Yale, 2014; Linacre, 2005).

  3. 3.

    DIF analyses for child race were restricted to children from Black or White backgrounds for two reasons. First, the largest and most consistent racial differences for ADHD symptom dimension ratings have been obtained for Black relative to White children. Second, the cell size for other racial groups (e.g., Asian) was relatively small.

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Correspondence to George J. DuPaul.

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All study procedures were in accordance with ethical standards of the institution and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Drs. Anastopoulos, DuPaul, Power, and Reid receive royalties for the ADHD Rating Scale-5.

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DuPaul, G.J., Fu, Q., Anastopoulos, A.D. et al. ADHD Parent and Teacher Symptom Ratings: Differential Item Functioning across Gender, Age, Race, and Ethnicity. J Abnorm Child Psychol (2020) doi:10.1007/s10802-020-00618-7

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Keywords

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Parent ratings
  • Teacher ratings
  • Differential item functioning