Psychometric Properties of the Right Wing Authoritarianism Scale in Black and White South African Students

David Edwards, Paul Leger
Published Online:
27 Sep 2007
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 30 Issue 1

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Recently Taylor and Boeyens (1991) showed that the South African Personality Questionnaire has inadequate internal consistency and factorial validity for use in the black population. This paper reports a study supporting their conclusion that scales developed with data from a white sample do not hold together psychometrically or conceptually when used with a black sample. In a sample of white students, Altemeyer's Right Wing Authoritarianism scale, initially developed in Canada, had an acceptable alpha of 0.83, but there was an unacceptable alpha of 0.43 in a black student sample. Item and factor analysis showed that for the black sample there was little structure and that the scale was effectively a set of heterogenous items. This paper presents a detailed discussion of the item and factor analyses and shows how certain items have different connotations for whites and blacks as a result of their different political and cultural histories. Although cultural differences in conservatism can be observed by looking at individual items, a comparison between black and white individuals on the higher order construct of Authoritarianism cannot be made. It is concluded that basic conceptual work based on the phenomenology of the concept being measured needs to precede the psychometric development of scales for use in the black community.

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