Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Aging Studies

Major Professor

David A. Chiriboga, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Yuri Jang, Ph.D.


Depressive symptoms, Measurement equivalence, Health disparities, Differential item functioning, CES-D


This dissertation study was designed to examine measurement equivalence of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale across White, African American, and Mexican American elders. Specific aims were to identify race/ethnicity-, sociodemographic-, and acculturation and instrument language-related measurement bias in the CES-D. Three studies were conducted in this dissertation to accomplish these aims. Two existing national datasets were used: the New Haven Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly (EPESE) for the White and African American samples and the Hispanic Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly (H-EPESE) for the Mexican-American sample. Differential item functioning (DIF) analyses were conducted using both confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and item response theory (IRT) methods. Study 1 focused on the role of race/ethnicity on the measurement bias in the CES-D.

Results from Study 1 showed a lack of measurement equivalence of the CES-D among Mexican Americans in the comparison with both Whites and Blacks. Race/ethnicity-specific items were also identified in Study 1: two interpersonal relation items in Blacks and four positive affect items in Mexican Americans. Study 2 focused on identifying sociodemographic-related measurement bias in responses to the CES-D among diverse racial/ethnic groups. Results from Study 2 showed that gender and educational attainment affected item bias in the CES-D. The interaction between gender and educational level and race/ethnicity was also found in Study 2: Mexican American women and lower educated Blacks had a greater predisposition to endorse the 'crying' item. Focusing on Mexican American elders, Study 3 examined how level of acculturation and language influence responses to the CES-D. In Study 3, acculturation and instrument language-biased items were identified in Mexican American elders.

Study 3 also suggested that acculturation-bias was entirely explained by whether the CES-D was administered in the English or the Spanish versions. Possible reasons for item bias on the CES-D are discussed in the context of sociocultural differences in each substudy. Findings from this dissertation provide a broader understanding of sociocultural group differences in depressive symptom measures among racially/ethnically diverse older adults and yield research and practice implications for the use of standard screening tools for depression.