Construct Validation of Youth Development Instruments Used in an International Setting: Evidence From the Ghana Youthsave Project
Validation of instruments for assessment in social work research and practice is important. When the validation process involves comparisons among groups of youth on an underlying construct (e.g. commitment to school, sexual risk, financial capability, etc.), it is important to ensure that the assessment instrument is operating in the same way for each group. Further, because many of the instruments developed in North America have been used in international settings, validation is critical to ensure that the underlying construct of each instrument has the same theoretical structure whether used in the United States or elsewhere. The purpose of this symposium is to highlight the importance of cross-culturally validating instruments used in an international social work research project. Three instruments that are being used to measure youth education, health, and financial capability outcomes will be presented and discussed.
The studies in this symposium used factor analysis methods to analyze the relationships among measured variables and to determine whether the observed variables can be grouped into a smaller set of underlying theoretical constructs. The studies used the baseline data (N=6,252) from the Ghana YouthSave project. The first study used exploratory (EFA) and confirmatory (CFA) factor analysis to validate a commitment to school scale (CSS) developed in the United States and used with Ghanaian students. Multiple group analysis (MGA) was conducted to determine whether the scale performs in the same way for boys and girls and among youth from different geographic regions. The second study used CFA to confirm the factor structure of a health belief model (HBM)-informed scale that assesses attitude toward condom use. The third study used EFA and CFA to assess the psychometric properties of a youth financial capability scale. MGA was also conducted to determine whether the scale operates in the same way for boys and girls in the study.
In the first study, the adapted CSS had a reasonably good fit. Measurement invariance by gender and geographic region were obtained. In the second study, a multidimensional scale informed by HBM fit the data better compared to a one-dimensional condom scale. A first-order factor model with four HBM constructs also fit the data better, compared to a competing model with two additional factors. In the third study, a three-factor scale emerged. Based on CFA results, a three-factor scale had an adequate fit. The study also found measurement invariance by gender.
Conclusions and Implications: The three instruments in this symposium demonstrated good construct validity when tested with a sample of middle school students in Ghana. The results suggest instruments developed in the United States using theoretical constructs of Western origin may be also appropriate instruments to use and assess self-reported education, health, and financial capability attitudes and behaviors of young Ghanaians in the YouthSave project. Validation of instruments adapted from developed countries and to be used with young people in developing countries is critical as social work research expands in many developing countries.