Abstract: Measuring Youth Empowerment: An Item Response Theory Analysis of the Sociopolitical Control Scale for Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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155P Measuring Youth Empowerment: An Item Response Theory Analysis of the Sociopolitical Control Scale for Youth

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Mariam Rashid, MPH, PhD Student and Graduate Research Assistant, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Kristen Powell, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Andrew Peterson, PhD, Professor, Rutgers University, NJ
Peter Trietler, MSW, Research Specialist / PhD Student, Rutgers University, NJ
David Lardier, PHD, Assistant Research Professor, The University of New Mexico, NM
Robert Reid, PHD, Professor, Montclair State University, NJ
Background: Empowerment is a theoretical framework that has helped guide and evaluate interventions for individuals, groups, organizations and communities. Empowerment is an important framework to consider when examining communities facing inequity and searching for protective factors to move them towards solutions. Sociopolitical control (SPC) is a key element of the intrapersonal component of psychological empowerment. The Sociopolitical Control Scale (SPCS) is a widely used measure and has been modified for use across diverse disciplines, within international settings, and among various participant groups including youth (SPCS-Y). Considering the emerging interest in SPC among youth within community-based research, this study applied item response theory (IRT) to examine the psychometric properties of the SPCS-Y and to explore a brief version. Method: Data were collected between 2006 and 2013 from a convenience sample of high school students (N = 1,808), located in a midsized, economically disadvantaged urban community in the northeastern United States. We first used confirmatory factor analysis to examine all SPCS-Y items for unidimensionality. After confirming unidimensionality for each subscale, we conducted IRT analyses using a graded response model. Structural equation modeling was then performed to examine the hypothesized relationships between the full and our abbreviated measures of the SPCS-Y subscales and sense of community as a conceptually relevant variable. Results: Two subscales, leadership competence and policy control, were each unidimensional and items functioned well, particularly at low and moderate levels of the construct, while a few items were able to capture higher levels of the construct. Based on IRT analyses, we selected items to create a brief version of the SPCS-Y (BSPCS-Y) and performed structural equation modeling for further examination. Results indicate that the model for the BSPCS-Y (8 items in total) fit the data significantly better than the full SPCS-Y. Conclusions: Results provide evidence to support the reliability and validity of the SPCS-Y and suggest a brief version (BSPCS-Y) based on high performing items is possible. Given the current and prevailing social problems that impact our youth, the constructs of leadership competence and policy control are critical to help support youth and the assessment of capabilities and strengths to improve lives and the communities. This study contributes to the empowerment literature by developing the BSPCS-Y and advancing empowerment theory. Findings extend research on the measurement of SPC among youth and may provide researchers and social workers useful information for future evaluation of youth-based programming that focus on empowering youth for community and social change.