A tutorial on hierarchically structured constructs

J Pers. 2012 Aug;80(4):796-846. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2011.00749.x. Epub 2012 Jun 29.


Many psychological constructs are conceived to be hierarchically structured and thus to operate at various levels of generality. Alternative confirmatory factor analytic (CFA) models can be used to study various aspects of this proposition: (a) The one-factor model focuses on the top of the hierarchy and contains only a general construct, (b) the first-order factor model focuses on the intermediate level of the hierarchy and contains only specific constructs, and both (c) the higher order factor model and (d) the nested-factor model consider the hierarchy in its entirety and contain both general and specific constructs (e.g., bifactor model). This tutorial considers these CFA models in depth, addressing their psychometric properties, interpretation of general and specific constructs, and implications for model-based score reliabilities. The authors illustrate their arguments with normative data obtained for the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and conclude with recommendations on which CFA model is most appropriate for which research and diagnostic purposes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Angiogenesis Inducing Agents
  • Humans
  • Intelligence*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Psychometrics
  • Wechsler Scales


  • Angiogenesis Inducing Agents