What do alexithymia items measure? A discriminant content validity study of the Toronto-alexithymia-scale-20

Elke Veirman*, Dimitri M. L. Van Ryckeghem, Gregory Verleysen, Annick L. De Paepe, Geert Crombez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Background: Questions have been raised about whether items of alexithymia scales assess the construct alexithymia and its key features, and no other related constructs. This study assessed the (discriminant) content validity of the most widely used alexithymia scale, i.e., the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20).

Methods: Participants (n = 81) rated to what extent TAS-20 items and items of related constructs were relevant for assessing the constructs 'alexithymia', 'difficulty identifying feelings', 'difficulty describing feelings', 'externally-oriented thinking', 'limited imaginal capacity', 'anxiety', 'depression', and 'health anxiety'.

Results: Results revealed that, overall, the TAS-20 did only partly measure 'alexithymia'. Only the subscales 'difficulty identifying feelings' and 'difficulty describing feelings' represented 'alexithymia' and their intended construct, although some content overlap between these subscales was found. In addition, some items assessed (health) anxiety equally well or even better.

Conclusions: Revision of the TAS-20 is recommended to adequately assess all key features of alexithymia. Findings with the TAS-20 need to be interpreted with caution in people suffering from medical conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11639
Number of pages21
JournalPEERJ
Volume9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Alexithymia
  • TAS-20
  • Content validation
  • Discriminant content validity method
  • AFFECTIVE AGNOSIA EXPANSION
  • HEALTH ANXIETY
  • ITEM SELECTION
  • SCALE
  • RELIABILITY
  • VALIDATION
  • PERSONALITY
  • OPPORTUNITY
  • DEPRESSION
  • INTEGRATE

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