As noted by Clark and Watson (1995)
, establishment of a stable factor structure plays an important role in the test validation process. For the MHP-P, multiple development stages were required to achieve stable factor structure. Exploratory factor analyses were conducted in a preliminary study (see Ruehlman et al., 1998
). Items were then revised, and the hypothesized factor structure was confirmed in Study 1, at which point inadequate items were deleted, but no new items were added. The final structure was confirmed in Study 3, using a large, representative national sample. The confirmatory factor analyses revealed a consistent structure for all scales across Studies 1 and 3. In regard to the MHP-P Mental Health area, our data suggest that psychological distress is best conceptualized in terms of six correlated factors. Although a hierarchical model reflecting one second-order factor was found to adequately fit the data, it was inferior to the simple, six-factor structure. These findings are consistent with those of Scheier and Newcomb (1993)
, whose confirmatory factor analyses of 27 measures of various aspects of psychological distress revealed that nine first-order factors fit the data better than more complex, higher order models.
The hypothesized factor structures for the MHP-P areas of Life Satisfaction, Social Support, and Negative Social Exchange were all confirmed in a like manner. However, the proposed two-factor model of Coping Skills failed, whereas a single-factor model yielded a satisfactory fit. As noted by Carver, Scheier, and Weintraub (1989)
, coping encompasses an extremely broad range of responses. As such, a large number of items may be necessary to adequately tap the two basic dimensions of problem- and emotion-focused coping. The difficulty associated with tapping a complex construct with few items may explain the somewhat low validity coefficients for the Coping scale observed in Study 1. Further research is needed to examine the utility of the MHP-P Coping Skills scale.
With the exception of several of the scale reliabilities in the Mental Health area, the retest reliabilities were satisfactory. To examine whether time frame may have contributed to an attenuation of the stability coefficients for scales in the Mental Health area, we used a briefer interval in Study 2. In this study, all of the scale reliability coefficients were found to be satisfactory, providing some support for the contention that the lower reliabilities found in Study 1 may have been influenced by the time-frame discrepancy. Notwithstanding this finding, additional studies are needed, particularly with adults in primary-care settings, to bolster confidence in the temporal stability of the MHP-P mental health scales. One concern is the possibility that the instrument may be too sensitive to minor or temporary fluctuations in mental health status.
In general, social-desirability response bias does not appear to exert undue influence on scores on the MHP-P. However, it is noteworthy that correlations between scores on the MHP-P and Self-Deception were stronger than those between MHP-P scores and Impression Management. This is consistent with evidence suggesting that denial or self-deception plays a positive role in the promotion of psychological health (e.g., Gotlib & Cane, 1989
; Paulhus & Reid, 1991
; Taylor, 1989
). Taylor (1989)
has argued, in fact, that “positive illusions” and unrealistic optimism foster healthy attitudes towards the self and the world, promoting creativity and feelings of well-being. Increasing evidence indicates that nondepressed individuals tend to be unrealistically optimistic and to downplay information that might contradict their positive world view (e.g., Alloy, Albright, Abramson, & Dykman, 1990
The national norms for the MHP are a strength (see Ruehlman et al., 1998
). The norms (for both genders and three age groups) were derived from a large (N
= 2,411), representative national sample obtained through random digit-dialing procedures. These data should allow for enhanced screening accuracy. Future efforts will be directed toward the collection of ethnic-group norms as well as local
(group and/or setting specific) norms
(e.g., individuals with a chronic illness, students, specific employment settings, etc.).
Validity assessment is recognized to be an extended process, involving multiple methods, sources, and procedures (cf. Clark & Watson, 1995
; Foster & Cone, 1995
; Haynes, Richard, & Kubany, 1995
). Preliminary evidence of convergent and discriminant validity was observed in Study 1, in which correlations were examined among MHP-P scales and widely used indexes of personality, temperament, mental health status, social support, life satisfaction, negative social exchange, and coping. These data represent a broad assessment of validity. Further research involving multiple methods of validity assessment is needed to more fully evaluate the utility of each of the scales of the MHP-P. For example, the ability of the MHP-P to predict the adjustive status of various criterion or high-risk groups identified in primary-care settings could be examined. Testing the usefulness of the MHP-P as a screen will require careful comparisons between the long-term outcomes of screened and unscreened populations broken down by age, gender, and ethnicity. The findings herein reported provide a preliminary empirical foundation for such an extended research enterprise.