The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Validity of the Children's Treatment of Animals Questionnaire Among Youth Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence: A Rasch Analysis

Friday, January 17, 2014: 9:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 003B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Shelby E. McDonald, MSW, Doctoral student, University of Denver, Denver, CO
James Herbert Williams, PhD, Milton Morris Endowed Chair, Dean and Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO

Participation in animal abuse is related to lower levels of empathy among children and across the lifespan (Ascione, 2001). Consequently, Humane Education Programs (HEPs) aimed at increasing empathy and deterring callous and aggressive behavior have been developed to increase children’s humane treatment of animals (e.g., Signal & Taylor, 2009). These programs have produced mixed results and are limited by the lack of empirically-validated measures of humane treatment of animals.

Current Study

In this study, we report findings from a psychometric analysis of the Children’s Treatment of Animals Questionnaire (CTAQ; Thomspon and Gullone, 2003), an instrument that assesses children’s humane interactions with non-human animals. Used in several recent evaluations of HEPs, the 13-item CTAQ has acceptable internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and convergent validity. The current study extends what is known about the psychometric properties of the CTAQ using an Item Response Theory model. 


Data were collected as part of a larger study on children’s exposure to animal cruelty in families affected by intimate partner violence. Participants (N=90) ranged in age from 7 to 12 years (M=9.45; 57% racial/ethnic minority). A Rasch analysis was conducted using the software, Winsteps (Linacre, 2012). Scale dimensionality, item and person fit, reliability, invariance, and targeting of the measure were assessed.


After removal of one misfitting item and 4 misfitting persons, a unidimensional structure was found to adequately fit the data. A Rasch principal components analysis of residuals indicated a single latent dimension among the remaining 12 items by Linacre’s (2010) standards. Approximately 58% of the variance was explained by the first contrast; the eigenvalue of the first contrast was 1.9. Overall item and person fit statistics further confirmed this structure (outfit and infit mean squares were >.5 and <1.5). Scale use was appropriate; Rasch-Andrich thresholds increased with category values and no disordering of categories was evident. Examination of item-person maps indicated the sample was also well-targeted with a person mean of 13.9 and item logit positions ranging from -4 to 5. Reliability of person separation was 2.47, with a Cronbach’s alpha of .86. Reliability and convergent validity correlations with the Griffith Empathy Measure (Dadds, Hawes, Frost, Vassallo, Bunn, Hunter, & Merz, 2008) and Inventory of Callous and Unemotional Traits (Frick, 2004) will be discussed.

Discussion & Implications

Findings indicate that the CTAQ is an appropriate unidimensional measure of children’s humane treatment of animals. Results suggest the measure is particularly well-suited for children ages 7 to 12 years who are at risk for engaging in animal cruelty. We recommend use of a 12-item version of the CTAQ to enhance the utility of the total score as a latent measure of children’s humane treatment of animals. Rigorous empirical studies of HEPs are scarce and plagued by methodological limitations inherent in human-animal interactions research.  The use of Rasch analysis techniques in psychometric investigations of human-animal measures are discussed as a method of adding scientific rigor to this emerging area of social work research.