Similar or different? An Item Response Theory Analysis of the Synonyms Test in Adults with and without a History of Institutionalization



The lack of valid and standardized instruments, directed on an assessment of the language domain in adolescents and adults in Russia postulates the urgent necessity of their development. To fi ll this gap, the language battery, ARFA-RUS, was created and applied in a large project investigating the long-term consequences of raring in institutional care settings on human development. In the current study, an Item Response Theory (IRT) approach was used to examine the psychometric properties of the Synonyms Subtest of ARFA-RUS as the fi rst step of validation of the battery. IRT results demonstrated the test is reliable for the low-to-moderate levels of the assessed ability; yet, to capture a wider ability range, more diffi cult items are needed. The ARFA-RUS Synonyms Subtest was less suitable for the postinstitutionalized group of adults; in this group, the latent ability estimate explained a lower percentage of variance in comparison to adults raised in biological families. With regard to item-specifi c analyses, two items demonstrated paradoxical patterns with decreased probability of correct response at increased ability. In addition, one item was eliminated from the fi nal version of the Synonyms Subtest due to its poor item fi t and low discrimination value.

General Information

Keywords: Item-response theory, psychometrics, differential item functioning, language, synonyms, assessment

Journal rubric: Data Analysis

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was supported by the Government of the Russian Federation (grant № 14.Z50.31.0027 “Early deprivation influences biological and behavioral indicators of development”; E.L.G., Principal Investigator). We are grateful to Mei Tan for her editorial support.

For citation: Logvinenko T.I., Talantseva O.I., Volokhova E.M., Khalaf S., Grigorenko E.L. Similar or different? An Item Response Theory Analysis of the Synonyms Test in Adults with and without a History of Institutionalization. Modelirovanie i analiz dannikh = Modelling and Data Analysis, 2020. Vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 35–63. DOI: 10.17759/mda.2020100102.

A Part of Article

Language is a fundamental human ability, and it is a fundamental component of many different skills and processes (i.e., memory, executive functions, learning). Like other complex skills, language development is influenced by a variety of genetic and environmental factors and their interactions.


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Information About the Authors

Tatiana I. Logvinenko, Research engineer, Laboratory of Translational Developmental Sciences, Saint Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Oksana I. Talantseva, Researcher of the Center for Cognitive Sciences, Sirius University of Science and Technology, Federal territory "Sirius", Russia; Research Engineer, Laboratory of Translational Developmental Sciences, Saint-Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Ekaterina M. Volokhova, Researcher, Laboratory of the Translational Sciences of Human Development, Saint Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Shiva Khalaf, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics, University of Houston, Houston, USA, ORCID:, e-mail:

Elena L. Grigorenko, PhD, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA; Adjunct Senior Research Scientist, Moscow State University for Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia; Professor and Acting Director, Center for Cognitive Sciences, Sirius University of Science and Technology, Federal territory "Sirius", Russia; Adjunct Professor, Child Study Center and Adjunct Senior Research Scientist, Haskins Laboratories, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Research Certified Professor, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA, ORCID:, e-mail:



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