The item response theory in the development of children’s quality of life assessment instruments and data analysis The item response theory in the development.
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The item response theory in the development of children’s quality of life assessment instruments and data analysis The item response theory in the development of children’s quality of life assessment instruments and data analysis Verdugo, M.A., Sabeh, E.N. and Prieto, G. Institute on Community Integration University of Salamanca www.usal.es/inico Introduction The past years have seen a considerable increase in theoretical and empirical research on the well-being of different population groups. Children’s quality of life, however, remains a topic in need of further development. The literature review related of this field suggests that: There is little research compared with adults studies. Most works come from the paediatric field, within a health approach. There is a lack empirically based models that set core dimensions and indicators of quality of life during childhood. Few instruments have been designed until now to measure children`s quality of life. We have little information about variables related to different levels of well-being in this group.Method A qualitative study where children informed about their subjective experiences let us define a quality of life model. Based on the core domains of the model, we designed items for two assessment instruments of quality of life: the CVI (a questionnaire for children from 8 to 11) and the CVIP (a parents questionnaire). Psychometric characteristics of CVI and CVIP were studied using the Item Response Theory Model (IRT). Participants were 713 children form Tucumán, Argentina, 16% of whom were identified by teachers as students with special needs, and 477 parents. Quality of life level was analysed using the IRT, including the study of differences between groups according to personal, family and social variables. Results The domains identified for a children’s quality of life model were: emotional well-being, physical well-being, interpersonal relationships, personal development and activities, and material well-being. Reliability of questionnaires is very high: 0.98 for CVI and 0.96 for CVIP. Instruments also showed to be valid. Quality of life for children was good. Differences were found between children with and without special needs, having a worse quality of life those with special needs. There were also differences according to families socio-economic level. Children’s quality of life model Discussion The study of children’s quality of life is not an easy task, due to the limited development of this field, and to problems in the evaluation of subjective perceptions during childhood. Nevertheless, this study shows that it is possible to get reliable information about quality of life experiences from the own child’s perspective. This perspective indicates, as many other studies on adults, that children perceive their quality of life as good, showing some differences depending on the socio-economic level of families and the presence of special needs. Using the item response theory in the development and analyses of quality of life instruments for children is an innovative approach that have many advantages, and that should continue to be studied.Conclusions Children can communicate aspects of their quality of life from their own perspective. The model of quality of life proposed and the instruments developed can be useful for future research on children’s quality of life. Item response theory is a useful approach to construct quality of life assessment instruments and to analyse data. It gives strong measures, based on solid principles of measurement. Differences between children with and without special needs challenge us to continue working to improve their quality of life. Differences between children according to the family socio- economic level indicate the importance of social variables on the perception of well-being in children, particularly in countries with development and social problems. References 1. Schalock, R. L. (1996). The quality of children’s lives. In A. H. Fine and N.M. Fine (Eds..), Therapeutic recreation for exceptional children: Let me in, I want to play (2 nd ed., pp. 83-94). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. 2. Schalock, R.L. and Verdugo. M.A. (2002). Handbook on Quality of life for Human Service Practitioners. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation. 2. Verdugo, M.A. and Sabeh, E.N. (2002). Evaluación de la percepción de calidad de vida en la infancia. 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