Lost in translation: methodological considerations in cross-cultural research

Child Dev. 2007 Jul-Aug;78(4):1255-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01064.x.


In cross-cultural child development research there is often a need to translate instruments and instructions to languages other than English. Typically, the translation process focuses on ensuring linguistic equivalence. However, establishment of linguistic equivalence through translation techniques is often not sufficient to guard against validity threats. In addition to linguistic equivalence, functional equivalence, cultural equivalence, and metric equivalence are factors that need to be considered when research methods are translated to other languages. This article first examines cross-cultural threats to validity in research. Next, each of the preceding factors is illustrated with examples from the literature. Finally, suggestions for incorporating each factor into research studies of child development are given.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Psychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research
  • Translating