Academic journal article Social Work Research

Factor Structure of the Group Engagement Measure

Academic journal article Social Work Research

Factor Structure of the Group Engagement Measure

Article excerpt

The Group Engagement Measure (GEM) assesses a commonly used, but rarely measured, process in group work. Earlier studies examined the reliability and validity of the GEM, but none empirically examined its factor structure. The authors examined the seven-factor, 37-item structure of the GEM, using confirmatory factor analysis involving a combined clinical and nonclinical sample of 207 adults. On the seven-factor, 37-item model, the fit indices standardized root mean square residual (SRMR) and root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) were .07, considered a fair fit; the comparative fit index (CFI) was .91, considered acceptable. On the seven-factor, 27-item GEM the SRMR was .05, the RMSEA was .05, and the CFI was .95, indicating a good fit; however, neither model was invariant across the clinical and nonclinical groups. Tests for factor invariance indicated that a five-factor, 21-item model produced the best fit across groups (CFI = .96, SRMR = .04, RMSEA = .06). Testing of these models is needed with more people.

KEY WORDS: engagement; group process; group work; structural equation modeling


Although the term "engagement" is widely used in the literature, there are few measures of the construct. Until recently, there was no measure of the level of engagement for members of therapeutic groups. Macgowan (1997) developed the Group Engagement Measure (GEM), a 37-item measure arranged in seven dimensions: attendance, contributing, relating to worker, relating with members, contracting, working on own problems, and working on other members' problems. Three studies have examined the reliability and validity of the measure with favorable results (Macgowan, 1997, 2000; Macgowan & Levenson, 2003). However, clue to low sample sizes, confirmation of the factor structure of the GEM was not explored.

Determining and confirming the GEM's factor structure adds to an understanding of its construct validity (Anastasi, 1988). Before this research, the dimensions were logically based on a theory of group engagement. This research would help determine the integrity of the hypothesized seven-factor structure of group engagement. In addition, a psychometrically sound multidimensional measure can have clinical value. Such measures can help clinicians identify areas in which a client needs assistance. For example, instead of simply knowing that a group member was poorly engaged, a group worker could know in which dimension the member was not engaged. With that information, the worker could apply engagement-building strategies relevant for that dimension.

The current GEM has 37 items, which makes it lengthy for repeated administrations in all but the smallest group sizes. Measures for practice should be easy to use and as short as possible (Bloom, Fischer, & Orme, 2003; Nugent, Sieppert, & Hudson, 2001). The use of factor analysis methodology would help reduce the number of items, while maintaining the integrity of the conceptual structure.


Conceptual Development

Previous notions of engagement in clinical practice were limited, often based on attendance in individual sessions (for example, Tryon, 1985). Only one other researcher developed items specifically related to engagement in groups. MacKenzie (1983) developed a measure of group climate with an engagement subscale that included five items. The items suggested an engagement model defined by liking and caring for members, cognitive understanding of behavior, participation, interpersonal challenge and confrontation, and self-disclosure. Although this subscale advanced the notion of engagement in groups, a fuller model that included other domains, including literature from social work with groups, would contribute to a more complete understanding of engagement.

Macgowan posited an original model consisting of seven dimensions (Table 1). …

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