Faculty Articles


Differential item functioning related to age in the reading subtest of the test of functional health literacy in adults.



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Journal of Aging Research

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Differential item functioning (DIF) occurs when items in a measure perform in ways that are different for members of a target group when the different performance is not related to the individual's overall ability to be assessed. DIF may arise for a number of reasons but is often evaluated in order to ensure that tests and measures are fair evaluations of a group's abilities. Based on observations when administering the test, we developed the hypothesis that some items on the reading comprehension subtest of the Test of Functional Health Literacy (TOFHLA) might be differentially more difficult for older adults and the elderly due to its use of the cloze response format, in which the participant is required to determine what word, when placed in a blank space in a sentence, will ensure that the sentence is intelligible. Others have suggested that the cloze response format may make demands on verbal fluency, an ability that is reduced with the increasing age. Our analyses show that age-related DIF may present in a nearly one-half of reading comprehension items of the TOFHLA. Results of this measure in older persons should be interpreted cautiously.


Medical Specialties | Medicine and Health Sciences | Osteopathic Medicine and Osteopathy

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Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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