Application of a Longitudinal IRTree Model: Response Style Changes Over Time


Ames, Allison J. & Leventhal, Brian C. (2021). Application of a Longitudinal IRTree Model: Response Style Changes Over Time. Assessment.


Traditional psychometric models focus on studying observed categorical item responses, but these models often oversimplify the respondent cognitive response process, assuming responses are driven by a single substantive trait. A further weakness is that analysis of ordinal responses has been primarily limited to a single substantive trait at one time point. This study applies a significant expansion of this modeling framework to account for complex response processes across multiple waves of data collection using the item response tree (IRTree) framework. This study applies a novel model, the longitudinal IRTree, for response processes in longitudinal studies, and investigates whether the response style changes are proportional to changes in the substantive trait of interest. To do so, we present an empirical example using a six-item sexual knowledge scale from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health across two waves of data collection. Results show an increase in sexual knowledge from the first wave to the second wave and a decrease in midpoint and extreme response styles. Model validation revealed failure to account for response style can bias estimation of substantive trait growth. The longitudinal IRTree model captures midpoint and extreme response style, as well as the trait of interest, at both waves.



Response style

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title



Ames, Allison J.
Leventhal, Brian C.

Year Published






Reference ID