A Comparison of Limited-Information and Full-Information Methods in Mplus for Estimating Item Response Theory Parameters for Nonnormal Populations

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In structural equation modeling software, either limited-information (bivariate proportions) or full-information item parameter estimation routines could be used for the 2-parameter item response theory (IRT) model. Limited-information methods assume the continuous variable underlying an item response is normally distributed. For skewed and platykurtic latent variable distributions, 3 methods were compared in Mplus: limited information, full information integrating over a normal distribution, and full information integrating over the known underlying distribution. Interfactor correlation estimates were similar for all 3 estimation methods. For the platykurtic distribution, estimation method made little difference for the item parameter estimates. When the latent variable was negatively skewed, for the most discriminating easy or difficult items, limited-information estimates of both parameters were considerably biased. Full-information estimates obtained by marginalizing over a normal distribution were somewhat biased. Full-information estimates obtained by integrating over the true latent distribution were essentially unbiased. For the a parameters, standard errors were larger for the limited-information estimates when the bias was positive but smaller when the bias was negative. For the d parameters, standard errors were larger for the limited-information estimates of the easiest, most discriminating items. Otherwise, they were generally similar for the limited- and full-information estimates. Sample size did not substantially impact the differences between the estimation methods; limited information did not gain an advantage for smaller samples.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.