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CONFIRMATORY BIFACTOR

MODELLING
Philip Hyland
philipehyland@gmail.com
University of Ulster

Lecture Outline
Describe the nature of bifactor modelling
Describe issues that arise in conceptualizing and
modelling multidimensionality,
Outline confirmatory bifactor modelling,
Differentiate between bifactor and second-order models,
and
Describe strengths and limitations associated with bifactor
modelling.

DIMENSIONALITY
Many psychological measures are constructed to
capture a single latent variable of interest (e.g.
depression, anxiety, self-esteem).
Factor analytic studies often reveal evidence of both
a general factor and multidimensionality.
When subjected to CFA, a scale almost always
displays a multidimensional structure.

DIMENSIONALITY
Unsurprising given the challenges inherent in writing
a set of scale items that attempt to;
1. Measure a single latent variable of interest but are not
entirely redundant (i.e., the same question asked over
and over),
2. Are heterogeneous enough to validly represent the
diverse manifestations of the construct, and
3. Provide acceptable reliability.

DIMENSIONALITY
Need to create a heterogeneous set of
items to appropriately capture the entire
breath of a given construct (e.g.
psychological and psychological
components of anxiety).
Puts researchers in a difficult position:
Measure one thing while simultaneously
measuring diverse aspects of this same
thing.

DIMENSIONALITY
Not surprising to find conflicting
evidence of unidemsionality and
multidimensionality for certain
psychological measures.
Leads to debates - measuring a single
construct or a variety of distinct, yet
related, constructs?
Bifactor modelling in its simplest form
offers an appealing solution to these
kinds of problems.

UNIDIMENSIONAL MODEL
Underlying structure of a measure are usually
assessed according to three general forms.
1. The unidemsional model
Each item is influenced by a single common factor
and a uniqueness term that reflects both systematic
and random error components.

UNIDIMENSIONAL MODEL

UNIDIMENSIONAL MODEL
Often the hoped for structure.
Summed scores on the individual indicators provide a
clear indication of individual differences on the latent
variable of interest (e.g. depression, self-esteem etc.).
Variation in each item on the scale is determined by
levels of the general latent variable of interest.

UNIDIMENSIONAL MODEL
Even when scales are constructed to
capture a single psychological
construct unidimensional solutions
are rarely identified.
Necessary then to find alternative
multidimensional model structures.
The second type of structural model
is the correlated traits model.

CORRELATED TRAITS
MODEL

CORRELATED TRAITS
MODEL
Latent variable of interest is separated into its component parts.
Components usually considered to be related to varying
degrees.
No attempt to measure a single common construct (e.g. PTSD)
rather the various components of PTSD are being measured.
Multiple latent variables are correlated - no attempt made to
place a measurement structure on the correlated latent factors.

HIGHER ORDER MODEL


The third type of structural model normally considered
is a higher order model

HIGHER ORDER MODEL


Includes a single common source of variation unlike correlated
traits model
Correlations between the first order factors are explained in terms
of a higher order factor
Latent variable of interest is being modelled but at a more
abstract or distal level then in the unidimensional model.
No direct relationship between the latent variable of interest
(PTSD) and each of the indicators of PTSD.

Rather there is an indirect pathway mediated by the first order


traits.

BIFACTOR MODEL
An alternative model conceptualisation exists but is rarely
applied in the personality and psychopathology domains. This
type of model is the bifactor model.

BIFACTOR MODEL
Variation among individual indicators is assumed to arise
for a number of sources.
In a simple form - all indicators are modelled to load onto
a single common latent factor the latent variable of
interest (PTSD).
But, item covariation can also arise due to what are called
group factors or in some models nuisance factors.

BIFACTOR MODEL
Bifactor models include two or more uncorrelated (orthogonal)
group/nuisance factors.
Each indicator is allowed to load onto two distinct latent
variables: A general factor (e.g. PTSD) and one (and only one!)
group/nuisance factor (e.g. Intrusions).
Covariation is caused by a group of items tapping similar
aspects of the trait (e.g. items measuring symptoms of
Hyperarousal).

FACTOR ANALYSIS
Appearances of multidimensionality can be the
result of heterogeneous item content
A given set of indicator are primarily attempting
to measure the latent variable of interest but they
are also purposefully measuring another factor
(this is termed a grouping factor), or
A given set of indicators are primarily attempting
to measure the latent variable of interest but they
inadvertently measuring another factor (this is
termed a nuisance factor),

BIFACTOR OR HIGHER
ORDER
Bifactor model allows researchers to retain the idea of a
single common construct (PTSD) while also recognising
multidimensionality (Intrusions etc.)
A useful alternative to the traditionally employed higher
order model.
In many ways the bifactor model and the higher-order
model are very similar but there are a few important
differences that are worth recognising.

BIFACTOR OR HIGHER
ORDER
Higher-order models are frequently used - bifactor models are
not.
Major difference lies in how multidimensionality is conceptualised.
In correlated traits models assumption that the observed item
covariation is the result of two or more correlated primary factors.
Higher order model - latent variable of interest (PTSD) is
determined by what a set of primary latent variables have in
common not what observable indicators have in common.

BIFACTOR MODEL
Bifactor models - latent variable(s) of interest explains
some proportion of covariation among observable
indicators
Other group/nuisance factors explain additional
covariation among observable indicators.
The latent variable of interest and group/nuisance factors
are therefore on equal conceptual footing and compete for
explaining item covarianceneither factor higher or
lower than the other.

BIFACTOR MODEL
In contrast to the higher-order model conceptualisation, in
a bifactor model conceptualisation the latent variable(s) of
interest is measured by what is common among the
observable indicators.
This means that variations in the intensity of the specific
latent variable of interest will directly influence levels of the
observable indicators rather than indirectly, as in the case
with the higher-order model.

APPLICATIONS
A bifactor modelling approach can be used to address
important issues that routinely arise in psychometric
analysis of personality and psychopathology measures.
Bifactor modelling is useful for:
1. Evaluating the plausibility of subscales,
2. Determining the degree to which sum scores reflect a
single factor, and
3. Evaluating the feasibility of applying a unidimensional
model structure to a measure with heterogeneous
indicators.

SUBSCALES
Researchers often argue about the usefulness of creating
subscales.
In many cases where a single general factor is broken
down into subscales these traits are highly correlated multicollinearity becomes a problem.
Our ability to determine the unique contribution of each of
the subscales in predicting some important outcome is
severely compromised.

SUBSCALES
A second reason often advanced for creating subscales is
that the subscales may have differential correlations with
external variables.
Technically true but weak justification for cutting up a
measure.
Any two items not perfectly correlated potentially have
different correlations with external variables.
However it makes little sense to argue that one should
investigate external correlates for each item separately.

SUBSCALES
A third and very seldom recognised problem with creating
subscales emerges from a bifactor modelling perspective.
Subscale scores reflect variation on both a general factor
and a more specific group/nuisance factor.
The effect of this is that the subscale may appear to be
reliable, but in fact, that reliability is a function of the
general trait, not the specific group factor.

SUBSCALES
Finally, it has also been noted that subscales are often so
unreliable compared to the composite score that the
composite score is actually a better predictor of an
individuals true score on a subscale than is the subscale
score itself.
Sinharay and Puhan (2007) have therefore argued that
subscale scores are seldom, if ever, empirically justified.
How can bifactor models help?

SUBSCALES
Provides a method for determining the usefulness of creating
subscales.
Because the general and group/nuisance factors are
uncorrelated in a bifactor model, inspection of the factor
loadings on the general and group/nuisance factors is
informative.
If factor loadings are high on the general factor and low on the
group/nuisance factors - makes little sense to create subscales.
If factor loadings are high for both the general factor and the
group/nuisance factors - subscale creation should be
considered.

APPLICATIONS
Reise, Moore, and Haviland (2010) - main problem in
traditional psychometric evaluation of scales is that the
wrong default model is used.
A unidimensional model is normally used as the default
model and is also frequently a researchers ideal solution.
Yet, item response data drawn from complex measures
are rarely, if ever, strictly unidimensional.

APPLICATIONS
In a way its also not desirable to achieve such a solution
To achieve unidimensionality one essentially has to write a set
of items with very narrow conceptual bandwidth (i.e., the same
item written over and over in slightly different ways)
Results in poor predictive power or theoretical usefulness.
Reise et al. (2010) argue that a bifactor model, which contains
a single common trait but also allows for multidimensionality
due to item content diversity, provides a better foundational
model for conceptualizing dimensionality.

STRENGTHS
Ability to maintain a unidimensional conceptualisation while
also recognising issues of multidimensionality.
What else?
So far we have focused on the role on grouping factors.
Factors that are present within a scale that arise from
intentionally attempting to capture complexities of a particular
psychological construct (e.g. the cognitive-affective and
somatic-performance components of depression).
But, what about nuisance factors?

STRENGTHS
Factors that are present within a scale which arise
unintentionally when attempting to capture the primary latent
variable(s) of interest.
When unwanted nuisance factors are present within a scale the
fit of a theoretically derived model may be affected.
Bifactor models allow researchers to model (control for) these
unwanted nuisance factors
Allows for a clearer assessment of the adequacy of theoretically
derived models.

LIMITATIONS
The general and group/nuisance factor must be specified to be
uncorrelated.
What does it mean to propose the existence of a group factor such
as Intrusions that partially reflect PTSD but which also has a
specific component that is independent of PTSD?
Many researchers are therefore sceptical that the model itself
makes any sense.
Highly restrictive assumptions which need to satisfied in order that
group/nuisance factors will be identified.
Data must be multidimensional but also that the
multidimensionality be well structured - each item measures a
general factor and one, and only one, group/nuisance factor.

CONCLUSION
Many psychological scales are constructed to measure a single
latent variable of interest (e.g. depression, self-esteem).
However due to item heterogeneity necessary to capture the
subtleties and complexities of a psych construct scales
invariably display signs of multidimensionality.
Correlated trait models and higher-order models are
traditionally applied in order to model the underlying structure of
such scales.

CONCLUSION
Bifactor models provide a plausible and useful alternative to
traditionally employed higher-order model in order to maintain a
unidimensional structure consistent with the theoretical
foundation upon which the measure was constructed while also
taking into account important item grouping factors.
Bifactor modelling also allows researchers to model (control for)
unwanted/unintended/meaningless nuisance factors which are
preventing theoretically plausible models from achieving
appropriate model fit.
A number of important strengths and limitations should be
considered when deciding whether or not to conduct a bifactor
analysis.

CONFIRMATORY BIFACTOR
MODELLING
HOW TO CARRY OUT IN
Mplus

EXAMPLE
We will be further examining the factor structure of the Measure
of Criminal Social Identity (Boduszek et al., 2012).
8 Items designed to measure Criminal Social Identity Includes
three grouping factors.
1. Cognitive Centrality
2. In-Group Affect
3. In Group Ties

SAVING DATA FOR USE IN


MPLUS

We will be using the data set entitled Criminal Identity

Unlike SPSS, Mplus does not allow you to use drop-down commands
to estimate the model - you must write the syntax yourself (dont
panic!).

It is a good idea to create a shorter data set yourself for your specific
analysis in Mplus.

SAVING DATA FOR USE IN


MPLUS
Mplus cannot directly read an SPSS file.
Mplus can easily read Tab delimited data, so we can save our
dataset as a .dat file. This can be done by choosing File, Save
as.
Be sure to untick the box Write Variable Names to
Spreadsheet
We will save the variable names quickly from SPSS by copying
them from the Variable View window and pasting them into a
new text editor or directly into an Mplus input file.
Ready to open a new Mplus window and start writing syntax.

MPLUS SYNTAX FOR BIFACTOR

SAVING DATA FOR USE IN


MPLUS
First we have to provide a TITLE for our analysis (Criminal
Social Identity Bifactor Model)
To read our DATA we indicate the location of the .dat file we
saved.
Under the VARIABLE heading after names are you paste in
your variable names from your SPSS data set.
In the next line, we indicate which values should be considered
missing in each variable. In our example missing are all (-9).

SAVING DATA FOR USE IN


MPLUS
In USEVAR enter those variables which are to be used for the
current analysis.
The CATEGORICAL option is used to specify which variables
are treated as binary or ordered categorical (ordinal) variables
in the model and its estimation.
Under the ANALYSIS heading we must indicate what
ESTIMATOR we will be using.

SAVING DATA FOR USE IN


MPLUS
Because our observed variables are measured on 5-point
Likert scale we will use Robust Maximum Likelihood
(MLR) estimation.
If your observed variables are categorical use Estimator =
WLSMV

SAVING DATA FOR USE IN


MPLUS
Because our observed variables are measured on 5-point Likert
scale we will use Robust Maximum Likelihood (MLR) estimation.
If your observed variables are categorical use Estimator =
WLSMV
Under the MODEL command we must specify the bifactor
model
This is the place where you have to create your latent variables
(seven factors in this example four general factors and three
nuisance factors).
In bifactor modelling, like CFA, we use the command by to
create latent variables.

SAVING DATA FOR USE IN


MPLUS
The latent variable CSI is measured by all 8 items CI1C* CI2C
CI3C CI4IA CI5IA CI6IT CI7IT CI8IT
For each latent variable created the first indicator must be
followed by an astrix (*)
This sets the variance of each Latent Variable to be 1 Allows
for model identification and latent variable scaling.
We then must indicate....
CSI@1; C@1; A@1; T@1;

SAVING DATA FOR USE IN


MPLUS
The group factors must all be uncorrelated with the general
factors.
We need to provide Mplus with this command
CSI with C-T@0;
The grouping factors must also be uncorrelated with each other
C with A-T@0; A with T@0;
If you have more than 1 latent variable of interest these are
allowed to correlate.

SAVING DATA FOR USE IN


MPLUS
Once you have created syntax for confirmatory factor analysis
press
to run the model.
Save this as an input file under some name e.g., CSI bifactor
model.inp in the same folder as the criminal identity.dat file.
This produces a text output (.out) file stored in the working
directory with the results.
For this model the output file looks like the following:

MPLUS OUTPUT BIFACTOR

MPLUS OUTPUT BIFACTOR


The first part of the output provides a summary of the analysis
including:
The number of groups (1)
The number of observations (participants included in the
analysis, N = 303)
The number of items included in the confirmatory model
(number of dependent variables = 8)
The number of latent variables (4).
Furthermore, Mplus gives more info which you do not need to
report except what Estimator was used (in this example it was
MLR= robust maximum likelihood).

MPLUS OUTPUT BIFACTOR


The next step is to investigate how well the model fits the data.
This model of CSI was specified and estimated in Mplus as a
restricted bifactor solution.
Before we look at the factor structure we have to assess the fit
between the data and pre-established theoretical model.
Goodness-of-fit indices are used to assess model fit Same as
used in EFA and CFA.

MPLUS OUTPUT BIFACTOR

MPLUS OUTPUT BIFACTOR


This bifactor model represents a superior fitting model
compared to all other tested models
We are interested in more details about this model.
Mplus output provides lots of information however you are
interested only in few of them.
Unstandardized Factor Loadings and Standard Errors
Standardized Factor Loadings and Significance Levels
Factor Correlations.

UNSTANDARDIZED/S.E.

STANDARDIZED LOADINGS 1

MPLUS OUTPUT BIFACTOR


You should inspect the strength of the factor loadings for the
psychological factors relative to the grouping factors.
If strong on grouping factors consider creating subscales.
If weak or weaker than the general factor consider
unidimensionality.
Also you would be interested in the factor correlations for the
psychological factors if 2 or more.