4. An analytical framework of questionnaire equivalence
Equivalence can be considered the degree to which a questionnaire performs equally well across different population groups and it is an indispensable property to allow valid comparisons across these groups. Unless equivalence is satisfied, it is not clear whether differences observed between two or more population groups reflect true differences or measurement artifacts (Byrne et al. 2009).
Equivalence is almost exclusively discussed in the context of cross-cultural and cross-national research and sometimes the term “cross-cultural equivalence” is used to refer to equivalence in a generic sense (Harkness 1998). This is somewhat misleading and researchers must be aware that equivalence is a necessary requirement for comparative research in general. This means that equivalence needs to be satisfied before valid comparisons of variables across different groups of subjects of a study can be made, be it to make comparisons between men and women, between different age groups, between subjects with different socioeconomic status or between the same respondents surveyed at different points of time (Ferketich et al. 1993). This is also true for common questionnaires such as the Medical Outcome Short Form Health Surveys (e.g., the SF-36) or the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) because they were originally developed for well-educated “mainstream” populations (Pasick 1997; Napoles-Springer & Stewart 2002) thus being limited by “middle-class ethnocentrism” (Rogler 1989, p. 301).
A framework of equivalence may also serve as an analytical tool to examine differences between source and target populations for which questionnaires were developed/adapted and...
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