Measuring alcohol use across the transition to adulthood: Racial/ethnic, sexual identity, and educational differences.

Addictive behaviors

PubMedID: 29055208

Fish JN, Pollitt AM, Schulenberg JE, Russell ST. Measuring alcohol use across the transition to adulthood: Racial/ethnic, sexual identity, and educational differences. Addict Behav. 2017;77193-202.
BACKGROUND
Patterns of alcohol use change from adolescence to adulthood and may differ based on race/ethnicity, sexual identity, and education. If alcohol use measures do not operate consistently across groups and developmental periods, parameter estimates and conclusions may be biased.

OBJECTIVES
To test the measurement invariance of a multi-item alcohol use measure across groups defined by race/ethnicity, sexual identity, and college education during the transition to adulthood.

METHODS
Using three waves from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, we tested configural, metric, and scalar invariance of a 3-item alcohol use measure for groups defined by race/ethnicity, sexual identity, and college education at three points during the transition to adulthood. We then assessed longitudinal measurement invariance to test the feasibility of modeling developmental changes in alcohol use within groups defined by these characteristics.

RESULTS
Overall, findings confirm notable variability in the construct reliability of a multi-item alcohol use measure during the transition to adulthood. The alcohol use measure failed tests of metric and scalar invariance, increasingly across ages, both between- and within-groups defined by race/ethnicity, sexual identity, and college education, particularly among females.

CONCLUSIONS
Measurement testing is a critical step when utilizing multi-item measures of alcohol use. Studies that do not account for the effects of group or longitudinal measurement non-invariance may be statistically biased, such that recommendations for risk and prevention efforts could be misguided.