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Keywords:

  • Item response theory;
  • sampling comparison;
  • sex differences;
  • substance dependence

Abstract

Aims

To examine whether DSM-IV symptoms of substance dependence are psychometrically equivalent between existing community-sampled and clinically overselected studies.

Participants

A total of 2476 adult twins born in Minnesota and 4121 unrelated adult participants from a case–control study of alcohol dependence.

Measurements

Life-time DSM-IV alcohol, marijuana and cocaine dependence symptoms and ever use of each substance.

Design

We fitted a hierarchical model to the data, in which ever use and dependence symptoms for each substance were indicators of alcohol, marijuana or cocaine dependence which were, in turn, indicators of a multi-substance dependence factor. We then tested the model for measurement invariance across participant groups, defined by study source and participant sex.

Findings

The hierarchical model fitted well among males and females within each sample [comparative fit index (CFI) > 0.96, Tucker–Lewis index (TLI) > 0.95 and root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) < 0.04 for all], and a multi-group model demonstrated that model parameters were equivalent across sample- and sex-defined groups (ΔCFI = 0.002 between constrained and unconstrained models). Differences between groups in symptom endorsement rates could be expressed solely as mean differences in the multi-substance dependence factor.

Conclusions

Life-time substance dependence symptoms fitted a dimensional model well. Although clinically overselected participants endorsed more dependence symptoms, on average, than community-sampled participants, the pattern of symptom endorsement was similar across groups. From a measurement perspective, DSM-IV criteria are equally appropriate for describing substance dependence across different sampling methods.