Translation of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale into American Sign Language: A Principal Components Analysis. (Instrument Development)

By Crowe, Teresa V. | Social Work Research, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Translation of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale into American Sign Language: A Principal Components Analysis. (Instrument Development)


Crowe, Teresa V., Social Work Research


In general, social science researchers agree that there is a need for culturally and linguistically appropriate instruments if findings about people are to reflect what they are intended to measure. The United States is made up of people who belong to various cultures and ethnic groups and who speak different languages. How can testing procedures adequately reflect the varied cultural experiences of these various ethnic groups? Why is it important to modify testing procedures for individuals who belong to a particular ethnic group?

Standardized testing is widely used in the United States. The research community views testing instruments as helpful tools in conducting research. The results of testing research often are used for practice and policy decisions. Therefore, their use has potentially harmful implications if measurements are invalid or unreliable. This issue is especially pertinent to groups whose members have particular linguistic and cultural needs.

There are approximately 250,000 to 500,000 Americans who use American Sign Language (ASL) (Bicultural Center, 1991; Brauer, 1993; Schein, 1989). ASL differs from spoken and written English in that it does not depend on the use of speech, lipreading, or English grammatical structure (Braden, 1994). Thus, ASL is a visual language rather than a spoken one. Those who use ASL as their primary mode of communication often socialize with other deaf people. Their activities, background, and language provide common threads that tie them together to form a community and culture. This subgroup, however, exists in the context of the larger society. In this respect, the Deaf community and Deaf culture can be thought of as a bilingual and bicultural ethnic group (Duffy, 1989; Gallimore, 1992; Lane, 1988). Even though the number of Americans who use ASL is small, "American Sign Language (ASL) has received particular study and informed scholars agree that ASL is one of our country's indigenous minority languages" (Lane, 1988, p. 221).

Research involving deaf populations can present many methodological challenges. Assessment of bilingual individuals may be complicated because of the cultural meanings and associations of a particular term in the host language (Bernal, Wooley, & Schensul, 1997). Specific nuances of a word in one language may not be translated easily to another language.

The back-translation method is commonly used and is the recommended procedure for translating an instrument from the source language to another language (Cohen & Jones, 1990). The goal of back-translation is to ensure that the original and translated versions of the instrument are equivalent (Brislin, 1970; Varricchio, 1997).

Historically, the research methods for studying deaf people were biased and led to inaccurate interpretations (Pollard, 1992-93). Testing procedures often did not include the use of sign language, which led to erroneous inferences. For example, early research in psychological testing with deaf children led to the conclusion that a deaf child was about 10 points lower in IQ. Later testing with the use of sign language showed that deafness alone does not imply lower intelligence (Pollard, 1992-93).

Although deaf people may be linguistically competent in sign language, they may have varying degrees of competence in understanding written language (Gormley & Franzen, 1978). In fact, the average English literacy level of deaf high school graduates is at approximately the fourth grade level (Gormely & Franzen, 1978; Steinberg, Lipton, Eckhardt, Goldstein, & Sullivan, 1998). Thus, It makes sense to use assessment scales that measure constructs in the individual's native language.

Several studies have used translation methods for scales used with deaf people (Brauer, 1993; Chovan & Benfield, 1994; Glickman & Carey, 1993; Oullette & Sendelbaugh, 1982; Schwartz, Mebane, & Malony, 1990; Steinberg et al. …

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