Deconstructing the architecture of alcohol abuse and dependence symptoms in a community sample of late adolescent and emerging adult women: An item response approach

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Abstract

The objective of this study was to examine the underlying factorial architecture of lifetime DSM-IV alcohol use disorder (AUD) criteria in a population-based sample of adolescent and emerging adult female twins who had ever used alcohol (n= 2832; aged 18-25 years), and to determine whether thresholds and factor loadings differed by age. Item response modeling was applied to DSM-IV AUD criteria. Compound criteria (e.g., persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to quit or cut down) were included as separate items. Of the remaining 16 items, tolerance and use despite physical problems were the most and least commonly endorsed items, respectively. Underlying the items was a single factor representing liability to AUDs. Factor loadings ranged from 0.67 for blackouts to 0.90 for time spent using/recovering from effects. Some items assessing different DSM-IV criteria had very similar measurement characteristics, while others assessing the same criterion showed markedly different thresholds and factor loadings. Compared to that of women aged 21-25 years, the threshold for hazardous use was higher in women aged 18-20 years, but lower for used longer than intended and persistent desire to cut down. After accounting for threshold differences, no variations in discrimination across age groups were observed. In agreement with the extant literature, our findings indicate that the factorial structure of AUD is unidimensional, with no support for the abuse/dependence distinction. Individual components of compound criteria may differ in measurement properties; therefore pooling information from such divergent items will reduce information about the AUD construct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-227
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Volume116
Issue number1-3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011

Keywords

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Item response modeling
  • Twins

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