Given substantial rates of major depressive disorder among college and university students, as well as the growing cultural diversity on many campuses, establishing the cross-cultural validity of relevant assessment tools is important. In the current investigation, we examined the Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition (BDI-II; Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996) among Chinese-heritage (n = 933) and European-heritage (n = 933) undergraduates in North America. The investigation integrated 3 distinct lines of inquiry: (a) the literature on cultural variation in depressive symptom reporting between people of Chinese and Western heritage; (b) recent developments regarding the factor structure of the BDI-II; and (c) the application of advanced statistical techniques to the issue of cross-cultural measurement invariance. A bifactor model was found to represent the optimal factor structure of the BDI-II. Multigroup confirmatory factor analysis showed that the BDI-II had strong measurement invariance across both culture and gender. In group comparisons with latent and observed variables, Chinese-heritage students scored higher than European-heritage students on cognitive symptoms of depression. This finding deviates from the commonly held view that those of Chinese heritage somatize depression. These findings hold implications for the study and use of the BDI-II, highlight the value of advanced statistical techniques such as multigroup confirmatory factor analysis, and offer methodological lessons for cross-cultural psychopathology research more broadly.
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