Measuring Youth Empowerment: An Item Response Theory Analysis of the Sociopolitical Control Scale for Youth

Kristen Gilmore Powell, N. Andrew Peterson, Peter C. Treitler, David T. Lardier, Mariam Rashid, Robert J. Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Sociopolitical control (SPC) has been identified as a key element of the intrapersonal component of psychological empowerment. The Sociopolitical Control Scale (SPCS) is a widely used measure and has been modified for use among youth (SPCS-Y). In light of the emerging interest in SPC among youth within community-based research, this study applied item response theory (IRT) to examine the psychometric properties of the SPCS-Y and to explore a brief version. Data were collected between 2006 and 2013 from a convenience sample of high school students (N = 1,808), located in a midsized, economically disadvantaged urban community in the northeastern United States. Findings indicate that the two subscales, leadership competence, and policy control, were unidimensional and items functioned well. Most items functioned particularly well at low and moderate levels of the construct, but a few were able to capture higher levels of the construct. Based on our IRT analyses of the performance of items on the subscales, we selected items to create a brief version of the SPCS-Y (BSPCS-Y) and performed structural equation modeling for further examination. Results provide empirical evidence to support the reliability and validity of the SPCS-Y and suggest a brief version based on high-performing items is possible.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Item response theory
  • Measurement
  • Sociopolitical control
  • Youth empowerment


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