Academic journal article Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development

The Development and Validation of the Social Privilege Measure

Academic journal article Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development

The Development and Validation of the Social Privilege Measure

Article excerpt

Privilege and oppression have an impact on society in numerous ways. Although studied in many disciplines, few empirical measures of these social constructs exist for educators or researchers. The 2 studies presented in this article describe the development and validation of the scores yielded by the Social Privilege Measure.


Counselors and counselor educators have been challenged for 4 decades to train practitioners to provide culturally competent services to clients (Arredondo et al., 1996; Pedersen, 1976; Roysircar, Sandhu, & Bibbins, 2003; Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992; Sue et al., 1982). Cultural competency standards were identified (Sue et al., 1992) and operationalized (Arredondo et al., 1996), and numerous guidebooks were produced that addressed counselor training procedures (e.g., Pedersen, 2000; Robinson & Howard-Hamilton, 2000; Roysircar et al., 2003). Several teams of researchers (D'Andrea, Daniels, & Heck, 1991; Helms & Carter, 1990; LaFromboise, Coleman, & Hernandez, 1991; Ponterotto et al., 1996; Sodowsky, Taffe, Gutkin, & Wise, 1994) responded by developing empirical measures that purported to gauge the personal and professional dimensions deemed necessary for culturally competent counseling (e.g., knowledge, awareness, skills, racial identity development, and the counseling relationship).

Of particular note, Sue et al. (1992) called for counselors, and in particular White counselors, to improve their personal awareness and accountability regarding the role that privilege and the resulting oppression played in their lives and the lives of their clients. The nature of privilege confounds this process. Privilege is typically assumed to be outside the awareness of those who possesses it (McIntosh, 1992); therefore, many counselors may unintentionally exercise their unearned privilege to the detriment of their clients. Privilege and oppression are inexorably linked in a relationship in which a few are accorded a privileged status (e.g., bestowed unearned benefits, resources, and access) through force or the deprivation (e.g., oppression) of many (Hanna, Talley, & Guindon, 2000).

Privilege must be made visible, and despite the call of numerous authors, no tool exists that produces valid scores for examining the nature and extent of privilege. What seems to be lacking is a sound theoretical model and an empirical measure that could quantify the construct and dimensions of privilege. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to describe the construct of racial privilege and develop a scale that would measure it in a valid and reliable way.

In this article, we report (a) the results of the development and validation of the scores yielded by a conceptually driven measure of racial privilege, (b) the results of a second validation study conducted with a shortened version of the measure using a second sample, and (c) the results of the tests of several competing models using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA).

The significance of this research is threefold. First, the use of empirical methods extends the theoretical understanding of the nature and dimensions of social privilege. Second, the examination of competing models further clarifies the relationship between and among first-order components. Third, the study presents counselors with a sound process for instrument development and validation.



Several authors (Black & Stone, 2005; Lucal, 1996; McIntosh, 1992; Robinson, 1999) have agreed on the definition of privilege. Drawn from the work of these authors, five core components provide the definition of this concept. First, privilege is a special advantage; it is neither common nor universal. Second, privilege is granted, not earned or brought into being by one's individual effort or talents. Third, privilege is a right or entitlement that is related to a preferred status or rank. …

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