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The development of culturally-sensitive measures for research on ageing

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 March 2011

Attempts to import existing measures developed in other countries when constructing research instruments for use with older people can result in several problems including inappropriate wording, unsuitable response sets, and insufficient attention to cultural nuances. This paper addresses such problems by discussing a mixed-methods approach (i.e. both qualitative and quantitative) to measurement development that incorporates input from the older adults for whom the measure is intended. To test this approach, a step-by-step process to the development of a culturally-grounded measure for older Thai people is described. Using focus groups and in-depth interviews, the process begins with an identification of the culturally-meaningful domains of the construct under study. Next, input is gathered from other studies; a preliminary quantitative measure is developed; and the measure is reviewed by a panel of experts. Based on further pre-testing and cognitive interviews with older people, the measure is again modified. Subsequently, the measure is incorporated into a large-scale survey and tested for its psychometric qualities. In addition to providing a template for culturally-sensitive measurement development in gerontology, this paper also highlights issues (e.g. time constraints and trade-offs between cultural specificity as against cultural comparability) that researchers should consider when attempting to develop measures. Suggestions for how to address such issues are provided.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Berit Ingersoll-Dayton, School of Social Work, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
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