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Psychological Reports: Measures & Statistics

2013, 113, 2, 486-489. Psychological Reports 2013

GENDER INVARIANCE OF THE COLLEGE STUDENT STRESS SCALE1


RONALD C. FELDT AND CHRISTINA UPDEGRAFF
Mount Mercy University
Summary.Assessment of perceived stress may be an important prerequisite
to deployment of eective coping in eorts to help college students adjust to academic and social demands of college. The study examined the extent to which a
seven-item measure of the College Student Stress Scale is invariant across gender.
Results indicated invariance of factor loadings, factor variance, and all but one item
intercept. No statistically significant gender dierence was observed between latent
variable means.

The inability to manage the stress response in college is associated


with poor college adjustment, depression, and reduced life satisfaction
(Segrin, Hanzal, Donnerstein, Taylor, & Domschke, 2007; Asberg, Bowers,
Renk, & McKinney, 2008; Verschoor & Markus, 2011; Cred & Niehorster,
2012). Assessment of stress is an important component of eorts to assist
students in benefiting from the college experience, and instruments used
for such assessment should demonstrate reliability and construct validity. The College Student Stress Scale was developed to provide a brief and
global measure of college stress that includes appraisal of the ability to
maintain control (Feldt, 2008). A recent study confirmed that the College
Student Stress Scale has a two-factor structure; however, use of a threeitem subscale for the second factor was not recommended due to low reliability (Feldt & Koch, 2011). Structural and external aspects of construct
validity (Messick, 1995) were established in two previous studies (Feldt,
2008; Feldt & Koch, 2011). One question that remains is the extent to which
the College Student Stress Scale is invariant across gender, the generalizability aspect of construct validity (Messick, 1995). Invariance testing at
construct and item levels provides tests of generalizability across populations, and multigroup confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) is commonly
used for such testing (Dimitrov, 2010; Sass, 2011). Comparison of gender means based on observed scores assumes measurement invariance,
and results of such comparisons when the assumption is violated may be
erroneous (Sass, 2011). The purpose of the present study was to examine
measurement invariance across gender of the seven-item subscale.

Address correspondence to Ronald C. Feldt, Department of Psychology, Social Work, Sociology, and International Studies, Mount Mercy University, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402 or e-mail
(rfeldt@mtmercy.edu).
1

DOI 10.2466/03.PR0.113x23z0

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ISSN 0033-2941

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Method
Participants included 460 undergraduate college students (353 women
and 107 men; 365 first-year students and more than 92% Euro-American)
who were enrolled in psychology classes. Age ranged from 17 to 44 years
(M = 19.5 yr.; SD = 3.3). No gender dierence in age was observed (p > .05).
The College Student Stress Scale has 11 items and a Likert-type scale with
response categories ranging from 1: Never to 5: Very often. It was administered in a classroom setting.
Results and Discussion
Data for this analysis were combined from two previous studies
(Feldt, 2008; Feldt & Koch, 2011) to create a large enough sample to support an invariance analysis. Multigroup confirmatory factor analysis was
used with maximum likelihood estimation. A principal component analysis was used to identify a reference indicator based on the most similar
component loadings across gender (Finch & French, 2008). This study created a well-fitting model and determined goodness of fit for each gender, in addition to a combined configural model. A correlated error for
Items 7 and 8 was estimated (Feldt & Koch, 2011). Fit indexes included the
comparative fit index (CFI), the root mean square error of approximation
(RMSEA), and the standardized root mean square residual (SRMR). The
chi-squared test was not used to assess goodness of fit because of its tendency to be influenced by sample size and to reject hypothesized models
when negligible dierences exist (Brown, 2006; West, Taylor, & Wu, 2012).
A series of constrained models was created with equality constraints on
factor loadings, item intercepts, and factor variance. Change in CFI (<
.01) (Cheung & Rensvold, 2002) was used for model comparison because
it is less likely than the chi-squared dierence test (2) to result in Type I
errors when models do not have perfect fit (French & Finch, 2011).
Good fit was indicated by CFI values > .95 and SRMR values < .05 for
the configural, baseline model for each gender and the combined model
(Table 1). Standardized regression weights ranged from .42 to .80 for women
and from .58 to .86 for men. Results of a series of comparisons of constrained
models indicated invariance of the correlated error estimate, factor loadings,
and factor variance. In contrast, the intercept for Item 10 was observed
to be noninvariant (CFI = .018), thus indicating dierential item functioning (DIF). Improved fit was observed when the intercept was freely
estimated. Item 10 intercept estimates for women and men were 1.79 and
2.08, respectively. This indicates that men are more likely to endorse this
item (no longer in control). All other intercepts were noninvariant. The
dierence between gender latent means was not statistically significant
whether the DIF item was included or was excluded from the analysis,

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R. C. FELDT & C. UPDEGRAFF


TABLE 1
MEASUREMENT INVARIANCE OF THE COLLEGE STUDENT STRESS SCALE ACROSS
GENDER (N = 460)
Model

df

CFI

RMSEA
(90%CI)

SRMR

Women

51.18

13

.963 .091 (.066, .118)

.037

Men

20.67

13

.982 .075 (.000, .132)

.034

Combined

71.88

26

.968 .062 (.045, .079)

.037

Factor loadings equal

80.41

32

.966 .057 (.042, .073)

.040

Item intercepts equal

112.99

38

.948 .066 (.042, .073)

.040

Item 10 intercept estimated

100.94

37

.956 .061 (.052, .080)

.040

Factor variance equal


103.40
38
.954 .061 (.047, .076) .044
Note.2 = chi-squared goodness-of-fit test, CFI = comparative fit index,
RMSEA (with 90% confidence interval) = root mean square error of approximation, and SRMR = standardized root mean square residual.

with estimates of the latent variable mean dierence of .15 and .22, respectively (both p > .05). In addition, comparison of the fully- (all intercepts
constrained) and partially-invariant (intercept for Item 10 was estimated)
models indicated a slight increase in the estimated dierence to .22 in the
partially-invariant model. However, both estimates were not statistically
significant (p > .05). Our results support the partial measurement invariance of the seven-item measure of college stress with minimal impact of
the noninvariant intercept for Item 10 (Byrne, Shavelson, & Muthn, 1989).
The seven-item measure should serve as a global measure of college
stress for researchers who wish to investigate relationships between global
stress and other constructs. The measure should be particularly useful
when researchers employ relatively lengthy instruments within a brief
session. Although the second sample (Feldt & Koch, 2011) was slightly
older than the first sample (Feldt, 2008) (p < .001), parameter estimates for
the correlated error, factor loadings, intercepts, and variance of the latent
variable were observed to be invariant across the two samples. In contrast,
the estimated dierence in latent means was greater for the older sample
(p < .05).
The major limitation includes limited generalizability due to the fact
that the sample was comprised primarily of Euro-American women in
their first-year of college and Euro-American men. In addition, the sample
consisted of students committed to service-oriented majors (nursing, psychology, and social work). Subsequent research should include additional
populations that vary in race and ethnicity, in addition to year in college
and college major.

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Accepted September 17, 2013.

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