Invited Paper: The Rediscovery of Bifactor Measurement Models

Multivariate Behav Res. 2012 Sep 1;47(5):667-696. doi: 10.1080/00273171.2012.715555.


Bifactor latent structures were introduced over 70 years ago, but only recently has bifactor modeling been rediscovered as an effective approach to modeling construct-relevant multidimensionality in a set of ordered categorical item responses. I begin by describing the Schmid-Leiman bifactor procedure (Schmid & Leiman, 1957), and highlight its relations with correlated-factors and second-order exploratory factor models. After describing limitations of the Schmid-Leiman, two newer methods of exploratory bifactor modeling are considered, namely, analytic bifactor (Jennrich & Bentler, 2011) and target bifactor rotations (Reise, Moore, & Maydeu-Olivares, 2011). In section two, I discuss limited and full-information estimation approaches to confirmatory bifactor models that have emerged from the item response theory and factor analysis traditions, respectively. Comparison of the confirmatory bifactor model to alternative nested confirmatory models and establishing parameter invariance for the general factor also are discussed. In the final section, important applications of bifactor models are reviewed. These applications demonstrate that bifactor modeling potentially provides a solid foundation for conceptualizing psychological constructs, constructing measures, and evaluating a measure's psychometric properties. However, some applications of the bifactor model may be limited due to its restrictive assumptions.