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There have been over 30 studies and two meta-analyses comparing social anxiety between Asian Americans and European Americans. However, few have investigated the invariance of social anxiety measures that would make these comparisons appropriate. In the current study, we systematically examined psychometric properties and configural, metric, and scalar invariance of five social anxiety measures and four short forms that have been used more than once to compare Asian Americans (n = 232) and European Americans (n = 193). We found that four (i.e., SPS-6, SIAS-6, SPS, and SPAI-18) of the nine scales were scalar invariant, three scales (i.e., SIAS, SPAI, and B-FNES) only achieved configural invariance, and two scales (i.e., FNES and SADS) failed to achieve configural invariance. Latent mean comparisons based on the scalar invariant measures revealed higher social anxiety scores for Asian Americans than European Americans. The findings are discussed with regard to the issues and challenges when comparing social anxiety among different cultural and ethnic groups.
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DOI: 10.1177/1073191116656438
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Article
Social anxiety is one of the most prevalent psychological
conditions with 25% to 33% of adults reporting intense
anxiety and/or avoidance of certain social situations at some
point in their lives (Kessler, Stein, & Berglund, 1998;
Ruscio et al., 2008). It is characterized by fearful anticipa-
tion of embarrassment or humiliation in social settings
where others may evaluate one’s behavior (American
Psychiatric Association, 2013). While relatively common,
social anxiety is frequently accompanied by intense physi-
ological arousal (e.g., shortness of breath and sweating),
self-defeating cognitions, and invariable avoidance of
feared situations (American Psychiatric Association, 2013;
Heimberg, Brozovich, & Rapee, 2010). Unsurprisingly,
social anxiety is associated with both occupational and
social impairment (Aderka, Nickerson, Bøe, & Hofmann,
2012; Wittchen & Beloch, 1996), and is estimated to have
cost the United States $100 billion dollars in mental health
treatment, work absence, and opportunity costs (Kessler &
Greenberg, 2002).
Experiences of social anxiety often involve evaluation of
the self in relation to others (Clark & Wells, 1995; Rapee &
Heimberg, 1997), which seems to vary in accordance with
different values and norms in Western and Asian cultures
(Markus & Kitayama, 1991). A meta-analysis conducted by
Oyserman, Coon, and Kemmelmeier (2002) have shown
that Asian cultural groups tend to place stronger emphasis on
interdependence, that is, construing oneself so as to fit in and
maintain social harmony among individuals, than Europeans
and European Americans. Cross-cultural studies have shown
that a strong emphasis on interdependence may inadver-
tently lead to heightened attention to social relationships
(Okazaki, 1997), increased sensitivity toward others’ feel-
ings, opinions, and evaluations (Lau, Fung, Wang, & Kang,
2009), a tendency to regulate and suppress negative emo-
tions (Park et al., 2011), and an inclination to be easily
threatened by social blunders and subsequent judgments
from others (Paulhus, Duncan, & Yik, 2002); all of which
are often found among individuals with symptoms of social
anxiety (Heimberg et al., 2010; Moscovitch, Rodebaugh, &
Hesch, 2012; Pineles & Mineka, 2005; Spokas, Luterek, &
Heimberg, 2009). Thus, it is of particular interest to both
clinical and cross-cultural psychologists to discern whether
the prevalence, symptoms, and impairment of social anxiety
differ between individuals of Asian heritage and European
heritage (Hong & Woody, 2007; Hsu & Alden, 2007; Hsu
et al., 2012; Lau et al., 2009; Lee, Okazaki, & Yoo, 2006;
Mak, Law, & Teng, 2011; Okazaki, Liu, Longworth, &
Minn, 2002; Okazaki, 1997; Sue, Sue, & Ino, 1983).
656438ASMXXX10.1177/1073191116656438AssessmentKrieg et al.
research-article2016
1University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, USA
Corresponding Author:
Yiyuan Xu, Department of Psychology, University of Hawai’i at Manoa,
Sakamaki Hall, C408, 2530 Dole St., Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.
Email: yiyuan@hawaii.edu
Comparing Social Anxiety Between Asian
Americans and European Americans: An
Examination of Measurement Invariance
Alexander Krieg1, Yiyuan Xu1, and David C. Cicero1
Abstract
There have been over 30 studies and two meta-analyses comparing social anxiety between Asian Americans and European
Americans. However, few have investigated the invariance of social anxiety measures that would make these comparisons
appropriate. In the current study, we systematically examined psychometric properties and configural, metric, and scalar
invariance of five social anxiety measures and four short forms that have been used more than once to compare Asian
Americans (n = 232) and European Americans (n = 193). We found that four (i.e., SPS-6, SIAS-6, SPS, and SPAI-18) of the
nine scales were scalar invariant, three scales (i.e., SIAS, SPAI, and B-FNES) only achieved configural invariance, and two
scales (i.e., FNES and SADS) failed to achieve configural invariance. Latent mean comparisons based on the scalar invariant
measures revealed higher social anxiety scores for Asian Americans than European Americans. The findings are discussed
with regard to the issues and challenges when comparing social anxiety among different cultural and ethnic groups.
Keywords
social anxiety, measurement invariance, cross-culture comparison, Asian Americans
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2 Assessment
The results of two recent meta-analyses (Krieg & Xu,
2015; Woody, Miao, & Kellman-McFarlane, 2015) showed
that compared with European Americans, Asian Americans
tended to report higher levels of social anxiety on standard-
ized questionnaires. However, meta-analytic techniques
assume equivalent measurement properties among groups
(i.e., measurement invariance; Little, 1997) to calculate
unbiased estimates, an assumption that had been rarely
tested in prior studies that compared social anxiety between
Asian Americans and European Americans.
It is important to examine whether measures of social
anxiety are equivalent between Asian Americans and
European Americans for at least two reasons. First, the
results of a measurement invariance analysis would provide
evidence on whether the group comparisons made in prior
studies revealed “actual” (i.e., latent) mean differences on
the underlying construct of social anxiety (Hambrick et al.,
2010) or reflect unequal psychometric properties of the
scales being compared across groups (Knight & Hill, 1998).
Second, although there is some mixed evidence for invari-
ance for some social anxiety measures between Asian
Americans and European Americans (Fergus, Valentiner,
Kim, & McGrath, 2014; Hambrick et al., 2010; Hardin &
Leong, 2005; Norton & Weeks, 2009), there is not yet a
systematic examination of all social anxiety measures used
to compare members of these two groups. Such effort would
add to the much needed discussion about the best practices
in using self-report measures for cross-cultural/ethnic
investigations (e.g., Doucette-Gates, Brooks-Gunn, &
Chase-Lansdale, 1998; Greenfield, 1997; Knight & Hill,
1998; Little, 1997; Marsella & Yamada, 2007; Okazaki &
Sue, 1995), by empirically examining the impact of mea-
surement bias on one of the most commonly cited group
differences in cross-cultural psychopathology.
The aims of the current study were twofold: (a) to com-
prehensively examine the measurement properties of five
full-length social anxiety measures and four short forms
between Asian Americans and European Americans, as well
as (b) to investigate whether there were latent mean group
difference in social anxiety between Asian Americans and
European Americans, after the establishment of invariant
measurement properties between these two groups.
Tests of Measurement Invariance
To garner statistical evidence for measurement equivalence,
a series of tests for measurement invariance have been
developed (for a review, see Vandenberg & Lance, 2000).
The basic underlying question that measurement invariance
tests attempt to answer is whether respondents from differ-
ent groups respond to a given measure in a conceptually
similar manner (Vandenberg & Lance, 2000). Tests of mea-
surement invariance are designed to place increasing con-
straints on a given multigroup measurement model in order
to see if the model still fit the data when certain parameters
are constrained to be equal. Tests within this series are hier-
archical in nature, meaning that invariance at one level must
be found for invariance at the next level to be meaningfully
interpreted. The first level is configural invariance, which if
achieved, demonstrates that the number of factors is equal
across groups. On confirming configural invariance, metric
invariance can be tested by constraining not only the num-
ber of factors but also items’ factor loadings (Little, 1997).
Confirmed metric invariance would provide support for an
equivalent underlying factor structure across groups, and
forms the basis for testing scalar invariance. Generally
with scalar invariance, item intercepts can be further con-
strained to be equal across groups in addition to previously
constrained factor loadings (Meredith, 1993). However,
certain parameter estimators (e.g., weighted least squares
with means and variances adjustment [WLSMV]) constrain
thresholds rather than intercepts (Sass, 2011). By constrain-
ing item thresholds, we are able to see if responses to items
are on the same or different scales between groups.
Confirmed scalar invariance allows us to also determine
mean-level group differences in the latent construct of inter-
est (Little, 1997; Meredith, 1993; Vandenberg, 2002).
Mixed Evidence for Invariance for Social Anxiety
Measures
In examining group mean differences in social anxiety
between Asian Americans and European Americans, certain
measures have been used more frequently than others (refer
to Table S1 for a summary of the social anxiety measures
that have been used to compare scores among Asian
Americans and European Americans in previous studies
available online at http://asm.sagepub.com/content/by/sup-
plemental-data). According to Krieg and Xu’s (2015) meta-
analysis, among the 32 studies comparing social anxiety
between Asian Americans and European Americans, five
measures (or their short forms) were used more than once,
including the Social Avoidance and Distress Scale (SADS;
Watson & Friend, 1969), the Fear of Negative Evaluation
Scale (FNES; Watson & Friend, 1969) and its short form
(BFNE; Leary, 1983), the Social Phobia and Anxiety
Inventory (SPAI; Turner, Beidel, Dancu, & Stanley, 1989),
the Social Phobia Scale (SPS; Mattick & Clarke, 1998), and
the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS; Mattick &
Clarke, 1998). To our knowledge, three existing short
forms: SPAI-18 (de Vente, Majdandžić, Voncken, Beidel, &
Bögels, 2014), SPS-6 (Peters, Sunderland, Andrews, Rapee,
& Mattick, 2011), and SIAS-6 (Peters et al., 2011) have not
yet been used with Asian Americans.1 All these measures
have been found to have excellent psychometric properties
(e.g., Beidel, Turner, Stanley, & Dancu, 1989; Le Blanc
et al., 2014; Osman, Barrios, Aukes, & Osman, 1995;
Osman, Gutierrez, Barrios, Kopper, & Chiros, 1998) in
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Krieg et al. 3
studies of European Americans. However, evidence for reli-
ability and validity has been rarely reported for Asian
Americans, even among studies that directly compared
social anxiety between Asian Americans and European
Americans. As shown in Table S1, among 23 independent
studies that had compared social anxiety between Asian
Americans and European Americans, nearly half of them
(11 studies) either did not report evidence of reliability for
Asian Americans or only reported reliability estimates for
their entire samples that combined Asian Americans with
European Americans. About 70% (16 studies) either did not
report any evidence of validity for Asian Americans or only
reported evidence for validity for their entire samples rather
than respective ethnic groups. Thus, there is a clear need to
comprehensively evaluate psychometric properties of these
social anxiety measures for Asian Americans.
Likewise, emerging evidence demonstrates that only a
few of these measures may be invariant when being used to
compare social anxiety between Asian Americans and
European Americans (Hambrick et al., 2010; Hardin &
Leong, 2005; Norton & Weeks, 2009). In a study that com-
pared social anxiety across groups of self-identified African
(n = 141), Asian (n = 251), European (n = 247), and Hispanic
(n = 160) American undergraduate students in the United
States, Norton and Weeks (2010) found evidence of config-
ural, metric, and scalar invariance for the BFNE (Leary,
1983) across all four ethnic groups. In contrast, an explor-
atory factor analysis of the SPS and SIAS (Mattick &
Clarke, 1998) failed to replicate the previously identified
one-factor structure among European Americans, in an
Asian American student and community sample (Condit,
Carter, Tang, & Rothstein, 2015). Although this indicates a
lack of configural invariance for both measures, it is impor-
tant to note the small sample size (N = 85) used in this study.
Likewise, Hardin and Leong (2005) found that constraining
some parceled item loadings on the SADS to be equal
between Asian American (n = 140) and European American
(n = 189) undergraduates led to worse model fit, whereas
removing the constraint improved model fit, suggesting that
only configural, but not metric invariance was found for the
SADS. Given the scant and mixed evidence, there is a clear
need for a systematic evaluation of invariance for these
social anxiety measures, before any valid conclusions can
be drawn in comparisons of social anxiety between Asian
Americans and European Americans.
The Current Study
The current study systematically investigated invariance of
five social anxiety measures (i.e., SADS, FNES, SPAI,
SPS, and SIAS) and their short forms when available (i.e.,
BFNE, SPAI-18, SPS-6, and SIAS-6) in comparisons of
Asian Americans and European Americans. First, we exam-
ined the goodness of fit for each measure’s proposed factor
structures for each group. Second, on finding satisfactory fit
for proposed factor models, we examined configural, met-
ric, scalar invariance for each measure between the two
groups. Third, measures with evidence of scalar invariance
were used to compute latent mean differences in social anx-
iety between Asian Americans and European Americans.
Finally, due to the lack of evidence of psychometric proper-
ties of these measures’ scores for Asian Americans, we
examined evidence for reliability (i.e., Cronbach’s alphas)
and validity (estimated by concurrent correlations among
these social anxiety measures) in both groups. The results of
our four-part analysis were discussed in the context of best
practices in using self-report measures for cross-cultural
investigations.
Method
Participants
Two hundred and thirty-five Asian American undergraduate
students (74% female) and 198 European American under-
graduate students (71% female) were recruited via a
Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of Participants.
Characteristic
Asian Americans (n = 232) European Americans (n = 193)
Count Percentage Count Percentage
Sex (female/male) 171/61 74/26 137/56 71/29
First generationa (frequency) 29 12.5 6 3.1
Second generation (frequency) 76 32.7 4 2.1
Third generation and above (frequency) 109 47.0 183 90.6
M SD Range M SD Range
Age (years) 19.93 2.65 18-44 21.23 5.27 18-48
Mother’s education (years) 14.84 2.49 5-18 12.51 5.01 3-18
Father’s education (years) 15.03 2.65 5-18 12.90 4.66 5-18
aEighteen Asian American students did not specify their generation status.
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4 Assessment
department subject pool from a large, public university in
Hawaii, and completed five social anxiety measures (SPS,
SIAS, SPAI, FNES, and SADS) and their short forms (SPS-
6, SIAS-6, SPAI-18, and BFNE) in an online survey in
exchange for course credit. Other studies and alternative
assignments were also available to receive course credit. All
questions from each measure were pooled and then pre-
sented in a randomized order. These questions were com-
pleted as a part of a larger assessment battery. Participants
were given a set of checkboxes with the 20 most common
ethnicities and asked to endorse all that applied to them. A
follow-up open-ended question asked them to state their
ethnic identity. To be included in the European American
group, participants needed to both endorse and describe
themselves as “White,” “European American,” or a specific
European ethnic group (e.g., “German American”). To be
included in the Asian American group, a participant needed
to endorse one or more East Asian (i.e., Chinese, Japanese,
and Korean) ethnicity and describe themselves as “Asian,”
“Asian American,” “Japanese,” “Chinese American,” and
so forth. We limited our Asian American sample to Chinese,
Japanese, and Korean participants because prior studies of
social anxiety predominantly focused on these three groups
which share a similar cultural heritage and Confucian value
system with a focus on interdependence. Among the Asian
American participants, 29.6% endorsed Japanese ancestry,
22.4% endorsed Chinese ancestry, 21.7% endorsed Korean
ancestry, and 26.3% endorsed more than one of the above
Asian categories (i.e., multiethnic Asian Americans). See
Table 1 for more participant demographic characteristics.
Measures
Based on the results of a recent meta-analysis (Krieg & Xu,
2015), our measurement invariance analyses focused on
five social anxiety measures that have been used more than
once in comparisons of European Americans to Asian
Americans (SPS, SIAS, SPAI, FNES, and SADS), as well
as their respective short forms when available (SPS-6,
SIAS-6, SPAI-18, and BFNE).2 All measures were designed
to be completed by adult participants and the number of
items included in each ranged from 6 to 45. Table S1 sum-
marizes factor structure and evidence of reliability and
validity of measure scores as reported in prior studies of
Asian Americans and European Americans.
Analytic Strategy
Measurement Invariance. To test measurement invariance
between Asian Americans and European Americans, for
each social anxiety measure we fit a series of three nested
models to the data using R module “lavaan” (Rosseel,
2012). We used a variety of fit estimators suggested by Hu
and Bentler (1998), who proposed that comparative fit
index (CFI), McDonald’s noncentrality fit index (MFI), and
Tucker–Lewis index (TLI) values of above .95, and root
mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) and stan-
dardized root mean square residual (SRMR) values below
.06 indicate good model fit.
The measurement invariance analyses involved three
steps. First, we fit a configural invariance model (Model 1)
in which the number of factors and the items that load on
said factors were the same, but factor loadings and inter-
cepts were allowed to vary between groups. Metric and sca-
lar invariance model were not examined if the configural
invariance model fit the data unsatisfactorily.
Second, given the establishment of configural invari-
ance, we fit a metric invariance model (Model 2) in which
the factor loadings were constrained to be equal between
groups. We compared the fit of a metric invariance model
with its corresponding configural invariance model by
examining the change in CFI as well as the change in MFI.
According to a series of statistical simulations conducted by
Cheung and Rensvold (2002), both the change in CFI and
change in MFI are relatively robust against potential viola-
tions of model assumptions (e.g., multivariate normality;
Cheung & Rensvold, 2002; Hu & Bentler, 1998) and are
good model fit indicators to use in tests of measurement
invariance. Following their recommendations, a change in
CFI of less than .01 and a change in MFI of less than .02
indicates nonsignificant model change3 (Cheung &
Rensvold, 2002).
(1) When the changes in CFI and MFI failed to meet the
criteria mentioned above, metric invariance was
considered not achieved and scalar invariance was
not examined. This would suggest that this particu-
lar social anxiety measure may not assess an equiva-
lent construct between Asian Americans and
European Americans.
(2) When there was a lack of metric invariance, modifi-
cation indices for item loadings were examined to
reveal whether any item loading accounted for
increasing the χ2 value by more than 10 (Byrne,
Shavelson, & Muthén, 1989). The particular item
loadings would then be allowed to vary freely
between groups (Heene, Hilbert, Freudenthaler, &
Bühner, 2012), and this modified model would be
retested (partial metric invariance; Model 2b).
These problematic items would be of particular
interest to future ethnic/cultural comparisons due to
their significant contribution to poor fit of the metric
invariance model. If modification indices did not
reveal any problematic item loadings, a partial met-
ric invariance model would not be fitted.
Third, given the establishment of metric invariance, we
fit a scalar invariance model (Model 3) in which factor
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Krieg et al. 5
loadings and intercepts are constrained to be equal between
groups. The change in CFI and the change in MFI were
examined when comparing the scalar (Model 3) and metric
invariance models (Model 2 or Model 2b) in the following
way:
(3) Scalar invariance was considered achieved when the
change in CFI was less than .01 and the change in
MFI was less than .02.
(4) When these criterion were not met, scalar invariance
was considered not achieved, suggesting that scores
may represent different levels of latent constructs
between groups, and mean comparisons would not
be appropriate.
(5) When there was a lack of scalar invariance, modifi-
cation indices were generated and any item intercept
that accounted for a χ2 value greater than 10, would
be allowed to vary freely between groups (Heene
et al., 2012), and this modified model would be
retested. If the fit change indices demonstrated simi-
lar fit when comparing modified Model 3 (Model
3b) with Model 2 (or Model 2b), the measure was
considered partially scalar invariant for Asian
Americans and European Americans (Byrne et al.,
1989).
While some methodologists may rightly caution against
modifying a given model based on modification indices
(e.g., Hurley et al., 1997), partial invariance models may
help identify problematic items in measurement invariance
studies (Byrne et al., 1989; Marsh & Hocevar, 1985). Partial
invariance analyses that involved identifying problematic
items may be of particular interest for ethnic and cultural
comparisons, since these items may be indicative of impor-
tant ethnic or cultural variations. Cultural variation in item
intercepts is especially relevant to our goal of examining the
appropriateness of group mean comparisons.
Latent Mean Differences. Given that there has been strong
arguments made for using latent mean differences as oppose
to mean differences based on raw scores from manifest
variables (e.g., Little, 1997), we estimated latent mean dif-
ferences in social anxiety between Asian Americans and
European Americans on the measures that were shown to be
invariant. Specifically, we estimated a latent “social anxi-
ety” factor, using scales that were invariant, and constrained
both item loadings and intercepts. We fixed the latent inter-
cept for the reference group (i.e., European Americans) to
“0” and allowed the latent intercept for the Asian American
group to vary. This model provided a standardized estimate
of mean differences on the latent “social anxiety” construct
(Sass, 2011), and the standardized difference was then com-
pared with the overall effect size found in Krieg and Xu’s
(2015) meta-analysis.
Results
Data Cleaning
Twelve participants stopped answering questions during the
middle of the online survey and were thus removed from the
data set. Following Enders and Bandalos’s (2001) recommen-
dations, the remaining 425 participants (232 Asian Americans;
193 European Americans) had missing scores imputed
through a multiple imputation algorithm performed on R
module “mice” (van Buuren & Groothuis-Oudshoom, 2011).
This Monte Carlo technique used information from the par-
ticipants’ scores along with information from the remaining
set of items to generate five plausible data sets with missing
scores selected from a distribution that likely represented that
particular missing score, given the set of scores from all other
items and all other participants. These data sets were then ana-
lyzed and pooled via a predictive mean matching algorithm
that minimized the standard error. This entire process was
went through five iterations, and returned a resulting data set
that contained both nonmissing and pooled missing values
(van Buuren, Brand, Groothuis-Oudshoorn, & Rubin, 2006;
van Buuren & Groothuis-Oudshoom, 2011). After it was con-
firmed that no values were missing in the entire data set, the
data were subject to further analysis.
Factor Structures
Before examining measurement invariance, a confirmatory
factor analysis was performed for each measure on each
group to ensure that previously identified factor structures
(listed in Table S1) fit the data. We used confirmatory factor
analysis with WLSMV method of estimation (Jöreskog,
1990). WLSMV is a robust estimator that does not assume
normal distribution. This approach is appropriate for cate-
gorical data (Brown, 2006), including the dichotomous data
presented in the FNES, BFNE, and SADS.
For Asian Americans, each of the five measures and the
four short forms showed satisfactory fit (CFI: .96-.99; TLI:
.96-1.00; RMSEA: .00-.05; SRMR: .02-.08). Likewise, rea-
sonable model fit was identified for European Americans
(CFI: .97-1.00; TLI: .97-1.00; RMSEA: .00-.06; SRMR:
.03-.08). Given that each measure satisfactorily fit its
respective model for each group, these factor structures
were retained when testing measurement invariance.
Measurement Invariance
Social Phobia Scale (SPS) and Its Short Form (SPS-6). As shown
in Table 2, Model 1 fit the data well, providing evidence for
configural invariance. Compared with Model 1, Model 2’s
CFI and MFI changed little, and metric invariance was
achieved. Model 3 also did not significantly differ from
Model 2 as indicated by minimal change in CFI and MFI,
suggesting that scalar invariance was achieved (see Table 2).
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Table 2. Model Fit and Model Comparisons Among Asian Americans and European Americans for Five Social Anxiety Measures and Their Respective Short Forms.
Measure Invariant? Model
Model comparison Model fit Standardized loadings
ΔCFI ΔMFI CFI MFI TLI RMSEA SRMR
Asian
Americans
European
Americans
SPS Model 1: Configural 1.00 1.00 1.00 .000 .057 .447-.700 .436-.770
Model 2: Metric .001 .013 .999 .987 .997 .012 .068
Model 3: Scalar .001 .006 .998 .981 .997 .014 .070
SPS-6 Model 1: Configural 1.00 1.00 1.00 .000 .031 .554-.750 .593-.782
Model 2: Metric .000 .000 1.00 1.00 1.00 .000 .041
Model 3: Scalar .000 .000 1.00 1.00 1.00 .000 .043
SIAS Model 1: Configural 1.00 1.00 1.00 .000 .056 .133-.766 .315-.820
Model 2: Metric .062 .527 .938 .473 .937 .091 .108
Model 3: Scalar .001 .004 .937 .469 .939 .089 .109
SIAS-6 Model 1: Configural 1.00 1.00 1.00 .000 .025 .563-.739 .354-.804
Model 2: Metric .000 .000 1.00 1.00 1.00 .000 .049
Model 3: Scalar .000 .001 1.00 .999 1.00 .010 .054
SPAI Model 1: Configural 1.00 1.00 1.00 .000 .069 .267-.857 .377-.822
Model 2: Metric .025 .807 .975 .193 .975 .058 .093
Model 3: Scalar .000 .007 .975 .186 .975 .058 .094
SPAI-18 Model 1: Configural 1.00 1.00 1.00 .000 .051 .486-.866 .571-.898
Model 2: Metric .001 .017 .999 .983 1.00 .016 .068
Model 3: Scalar .000 .001 .999 .982 1.00 .016 .070
FNES Model 1: Configural .969 .585 .967 .000 .069 .336-.629 .302-.718
Model 2: Metric .019 .066 .950 .419 .948 .058 .093
Model 3: Scalar .001 .100 .949 .414 .949 .058 .094
BFNE Model 1: Configural .987 .946 .984 .045 .063 .420-.693 .345-.742
Model 2: Metric .025 .095 .962 .851 .959 .073 .080
Model 2b: Partial Metric .006 .024 .981 .922 .979 .053 .068
Model 3: Scalar .020 .077 .961 .845 .961 .072 .083
SADS Model 1: Configural .990 .856 .989 .030 .066 .124-.624 .279-.697
Model 2: Metric .030 .319 .960 .538 .959 .058 .080
Model 3: Scalar .002 .280 .959 .526 .959 .058 .082
Note. SPS = Social Phobia Scale; SPS-6 = Social Phobia Scale–Six-item scale; SIAS = Social Interaction Anxiety Scale; SIAS-6 = Social Interaction Anxiety Scale–Six-item scale; SPAI = Social Phobia and
Anxiety Inventory; SPAI-18 = Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory–18-item version; FNES = Fear of Negative Evaluation; BFNE = Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation; SADS = Social Avoidance and
Distress Scale; CFI = comparative fit index; MFI = McDonald’s noncentrality fit index; TLI = Tucker–Lewis index; RMSEA = root mean square error of approximation; SRMR = square root mean
residuals. Change (Δ) statistics are in comparison with the row above (i.e., metric compared with configural, modified metric compared with configural, and scalar compared with metric or modified
metric).
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Krieg et al. 7
For its short form SPS-6, all three invariance models
resulted in adequate fit indices. Likewise, Model 2 did not
differ from Model 1 and Model 3 did not differ from Model
2 as measured by the changes in CFI and MFI (all <.001).
This provided evidence for configural, metric, and scalar
invariance (see Table 2).
Social Interaction and Anxiety Scale (SIAS) and Its Short Form
(SIAS-6). When examining the SIAS, Model 1 fit the data
relatively well, providing evidence for configural invari-
ance. As can be seen in Table 2, compared with Model 1,
Model 2 had a change in CFI greater than .01 and a change
in MFI greater than .02. This suggests a lack of metric
invariance, and subsequent scalar invariance models were
not tested. To explore SIAS items that may have signifi-
cantly contributed to between-group nonequivalence, we
investigated item-level modification indices. However, the
results showed that the poor model fit between Model 2
and Model 1 was due to group differences in item covari-
ances, rather than changes in individual item loadings (i.e.,
no item loading accounted for increasing the χ2 value by
more than 10).
The short form (SIAS-6), on the other hand, demon-
strated good fit for all three models. In addition, Model 2
did not differ from Model 1 and Model 3 did not differ from
Model 2 as measured by the change in CFI (all <.001), pro-
viding evidence for configural, metric, and scalar invari-
ance (see Table 2).
Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory (SPAI) and Its Short Form
(SPAI-18). Table 2 shows that Model 1 fit the data relatively
well, providing evidence for configural invariance. Com-
pared with Model 1, Model 2 resulted in a change in CFI
greater than .01 and a change in MFI greater than .02,
demonstrating lack of evidence for metric invariance (see
Table 2). Because of this, subsequent scalar invariance
models were not tested. Investigating modification indices
for item loadings revealed that nearly every item loading on
the SPAI’s two-factor structure (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29,
30, 31, 33, 34, 37, 39, 40, 43, 45) accounted for a χ2 change
value greater than 10. This may suggest that an inherent dif-
ficulty in separating symptoms of social phobia from symp-
toms of agoraphobia may have contributed to the
between-group nonequivalence of the SPAI.
In contrast to the full version of this scale, the short form
(SPAI-18), which only uses items from the social phobia
subscale, demonstrated evidence for all three levels of
invariance. Model 1 fit the data relatively well, providing
evidence for configural invariance. Compared with Model
1, Model 2 had a change in CFI less that .01 and a change in
MFI less than .02, demonstrating evidence for metric invari-
ance. Likewise, when Model 3 was tested against Model 2,
the change in CFI and MFI was minimal (all <.001), provid-
ing evidence for scalar invariance (see Table 2).
Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (FNES) and Its Short Form
(BFNE). Table 2 shows that Model 1 did not fit the data
well. Of particular concern was Model 1’s low MFI (.585).
This result demonstrated a lack of evidence for configural
invariance, and subsequent metric and scalar invariance
models were not tested.
In contrast, configural invariance was identified in the short
form (BFNE): Model 1 fit the data relatively well, though with
a slightly lower MFI (.946). Compared with Model 1, Model 2
had a change in CFI greater than .01 as well as a change in MFI
greater than .02. These results demonstrate lack of evidence for
metric invariance, and subsequent scalar invariance models
were not tested. Investigating modification indices for item
loadings revealed that Item 8 (“When I am talking to someone,
I worry about what they may be thinking about me”; inter-
cepts: Asian American [AA] = 1.25, European American
[EA] = 1.13), Item 9 (“I am usually worried about what kind of
impression I make”; intercepts: AA = 1.66, EA = 1.49), and
Item 11 (“I often worry that I will say or do the wrong things”;
intercepts: AA = 1.30, EA = 1.20) accounted for a χ2 change
value greater than 10. We allowed these item loadings to freely
vary between groups and retested the model. Compared with
Model 1, Model 2b resulted in a change in CFI less than .01,
and a change in MFI greater than .02. Because these results did
not meet the change in MFI cutoff, partial metric invariance
was also not achieved (see Table 2).
Social Avoidance and Distress (SAD). Table 2 shows that
Model 1 did not fit the data well. Due to a low MFI score of
.856, evidence for configural invariance was not achieved.
Because of this, subsequent metric and scalar invariance
models were not tested.
Latent Mean Difference in Social Anxiety
Based on the results of the measurement invariance analy-
ses, we selected the total scores of scalar invariant measures
to be indicators for the latent construct of social anxiety, and
estimated latent mean differences between Asian Americans
and European Americans. Specifically, we used the SPS
(latent mean difference: .58; p < .01), SPS-6 (latent mean
difference: .66; p < .01), SIAS-6 (latent mean difference:
.86; p < .01), and SPAI-18 (latent mean difference: .50; p <
.01) regressed on a single latent “social anxiety” factor.
Holding factor structure, loadings, and intercepts constant,
as well as fixing the European American group’s mean to 0,
we found that Asian Americans’ latent mean in social anxi-
ety was .62 (p < .01). This finding represents higher latent
mean social anxiety scores for Asian Americans with a
“moderate to large” (Cohen, 1988) overall effect.
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8 Assessment
Reliability and Validity Estimates
Table 3 summarizes the psychometric properties of all mea-
sures and their short forms in the current study. Given that
three out of the four short forms, SPS-6, SIAS-6, and SPAI-
18, had not been previously used with Asian Americans, we
would like to highlight the psychometric properties of these
short forms, including estimates of internal consistency and
evidence for concurrent correlations with other social anxi-
ety measures. As shown in Table 3, internal consistencies of
these short forms’ scores, estimated by Cronbach’s alpha,
ranged from .71 to .93 when being used with Asian
Americans. The four short forms also demonstrated showed
moderate to high correlations with other social anxiety
measures: rs ranged from .39 to .82, ps < .01). The evidence
for reliability and validity for the scores generated by these
four short forms were also comparable for their correspond-
ing original measures, and for European Americans in the
current study (see Table 3). Taken together, these results
demonstrate satisfactory psychometric properties of all the
social anxiety measures and their short forms for Asian
Americans and European Americans.
Discussion
Ethnic differences in social anxiety between Asian
Americans and European Americans have been of consider-
able interest to both cross-cultural and clinical researchers
in the past 30 years. However, most measures of social anx-
iety were developed and validated with only European
Americans. To a large extent, previous studies have over-
looked whether these measures may yield similar psycho-
metric properties and factor structures for other ethnic
groups such as Asian Americans, and whether they were
configural, metric, and scalar invariant when being used in
ethnic group comparisons. These limitations challenged the
validity of previously found ethnic group mean differences
in social anxiety between European and Asian Americans.
The current study sought to fill this gap by investigating
invariance of these social anxiety measures and their short
forms across Asian Americans and European Americans.
A few prior studies had suggested at least some measures
of social anxiety, such as SIAS (Condit et al., 2015) and
SADS (Hardin & Leong, 2005) did not seem to achieve sca-
lar invariance between Asian Americans and European
Americans. In line with these previous findings, we found
that among the five social anxiety measures and the four
short forms, only four of them (SPS, SPS-6, SIAS-6, and
SPAI-18) achieved scalar invariance. Three of the other five
measures (SIAS, SPAI, and BFNE) failed to achieve any-
thing beyond configural invariance. The last two measures,
the FNES and SADS, failed to achieve configural invari-
ance, suggesting a different number of underlying factors
among Asian Americans when these two measures were
used. These results have at least two implications for cross-
cultural research on social anxiety. First, the majority of
social anxiety measures achieved configural invariance,
suggesting that key facets of social anxiety may be similar
for Asian Americans and European Americans. Second, the
mean differences revealed in previous studies that had used
noninvariant measures, may be based on comparisons of
“apples” with “oranges,” and to some degree or less,
reflected measurement nonequivalence between Asian
Americans and European Americans. While it is possible
that there are “true” differences on these noninvariant mea-
sures, lacking scalar invariance limits the ability to establish
these differences between groups. Our results also showed
that at least some items of these measures seemed to be
understood differently by Asian Americans and European
Americans, thus leading to the lack of metric invariance; or
assessed the construct of social anxiety on different scales,
as being shown in the lack of scalar invariance.
We explored and documented these problematic items
based on their contributions to the lack of model fit via
modification indices. Our effort represents an important
first step for cross-cultural researchers to understand ethnic
and cultural differences in social anxiety in general and
more specifically, to investigate what items were responsi-
ble for the noninvariance of these measures when being
used with Asian Americans and European Americans. We
found that some of the noninvariant items seemed to be
strongly related to one’s cultural orientation toward inter-
personal relationships that may vary between Asian
Americans and European Americans. For instance, Items 8
and 9 on the BFNE assess fear of evaluation during a social
encounter; it may be understood as a culturally appropriate
sense of social cohesion among Asian Americans due to
their primary cultural emphasis on interdependent self-
construal that views one’s identity as interconnected with
the identities of those around them (Markus & Kitayama,
1991). In contrast, European Americans often view them-
selves as separate and independent from others (Markus &
Kitayama, 1991). As a consequence, Items 8 and 9 on the
BFNE may have assessed an emphasis on impression man-
agement that is viewed as culturally less necessary—even
pathological—among European Americans. Clearly, addi-
tional studies of these noninvariant items, particularly using
focus groups, is critical to further understand how certain
facets of the construct of social anxiety may be manifested
differently, or tap other related constructs among Asian
Americans and European Americans.
Likewise, the SPAI contained problematic factor load-
ings in that the majority of its items loaded on both its ago-
raphobia and social phobia subscales. It is difficult to
differentiate agoraphobia from social anxiety in clinical set-
tings (Turner & Biedel, 1989), and likely more difficult in
subclinical or community settings, like in the current
research. The degree of overlap between these two subscales
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9
Table 3. Summary of Psychometric Properties of Social Anxiety Scales for the Current Study.
Name of the measure Abbr.
No. of
items Response options
Evidence for reliability Evidence for validity
EA AA EA AA
Social Phobia Scale (Mattick
& Clarke, 1998)
SPS 20 5-Point Likert-type
(range: 0 [not at all]-
4 [extremely])
Cronbach’s α = .92;
composite
reliability: ω = .92
Cronbach’s α = .92;
composite reliability:
ω = .92
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .47-.79
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .41-.80
Social Phobia Scale–Six-item
version (Peters et al., 2011)
SPS-6 6 5-Point Likert-type
(range: 0 [not at all]-
4 [extremely])
Cronbach’s α = .83;
composite
reliability: ω = .83
Cronbach’s α =
.82; composite
reliability: ω = .82
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .42-.76
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .39-.73
Social Interaction Anxiety
Scale (Mattick & Clarke,
1998)
SIAS 20 5-Point Likert-type
(range: 0 [not at all]-
4 [extremely])
Cronbach’s α = .79;
composite
reliability: ω = .79
Cronbach’s α = .76;
composite reliability:
ω = .77
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .59-.86
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .49-.82
Social Interaction Anxiety
Scale–Six-item version
(Peters et al., 2011)
SIAS-6 6 5-Point Likert-type
(range: 0 [not at all]-
4 [extremely])
Cronbach’s α = .94;
composite
reliability: ω = .94
Cronbach’s α = .90;
composite reliability:
ω = .90
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .42-.77
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .31-.79
Social Phobia and Anxiety
Inventory (Turner, Beidel,
& Dancu, 1996)
SPAI 45 7-Point Likert-type
(range: 1 [never]-7
[always])
Cronbach’s α =
.87-.97; composite
reliability: ω = .97
Cronbach’s α =
.86-.96; composite
reliability: ω = .96
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .59-.82
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .53-.76
Social Phobia and Anxiety
Inventory–18-item version
(de Vente et al., 2014)
SPAI-18 18 7-Point Likert-type
(range: 1 [never]-7
[always])
Cronbach’s α =
.74-.95; composite
reliability: ω = .80
Cronbach’s α =
.71-.93; composite
reliability: ω = .79
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .60-.86
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .54-.82
Fear of Negative Evaluation
Scale (Watson & Friend,
1969)
FNES 30 Dichotomous (range:
0 [false]-1 [true])
Cronbach’s α =
.92; composite
reliability: ω = .91
Cronbach’s α = .91;
composite reliability:
ω = .91
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .49-.66
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .40-.59
Brief Fear of Negative
Evaluation Scale (Leary,
1983)
BFNE 12 Dichotomous (range:
0 [false]-1 [true])
Cronbach’s α = .87;
composite
reliability: ω = .87
Cronbach’s α = .84;
composite reliability:
ω = .84
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .42-.60
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .31-.54
Social Avoidance and
Distress Scale (Watson &
Friend, 1969)
SADS 28 Dichotomous (range:
0 [false]-1 [true])
Cronbach’s α = .92;
composite
reliability: ω = .92
Cronbach’s α = .88;
composite reliability:
ω = .89
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .50-.82
Correlations with
other social anxiety
measures: r = .44-.77
Note. EA = European American; AA = Asian American.
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10 Assessment
may have been further amplified by subtle differences in
which symptoms of fear and withdrawal are conceptualized
cross-culturally. For instance, in certain East Asian cultures,
“social withdrawal”—an element characterizing both social
anxiety and agoraphobia—is often used as an “idiom of dis-
tress,” irrespective of the motivating factor behind it (Tajan,
2015, p. 324). Clearly, studies focusing on item-level analy-
sis of noninvariant measures, particularly using focus
groups, is a critical next step to further understand how cer-
tain facets of social anxiety may be manifested differently,
or tap into other related constructs among Asian Americans
and European Americans.
Due to the lack of scalar invariance for most measures,
one would wonder whether the previously found group
means differences in social anxiety raw scores truly
reflected higher social anxiety among Asian than European
Americans. To address this concern, we compared the
means of the latent construct of social anxiety, defined by
four scalar invariant social anxiety measures (SPS, SPS-6,
SIAS-6, and SPAI-18). We found that the latent mean dif-
ference between Asian Americans and European Americans
(.62) was consistent with previous findings in its predicted
direction (i.e., higher social anxiety among Asian
Americans) and was nearly twice that of the effect size esti-
mate derived from Krieg and Xu’s (2015) meta-analysis of
raw scores (.36). Thus, it seems that the lack of equivalence
in measurement may have underestimated the group-level
differences in social anxiety.
The current research was also the first study to system-
atically examine the estimates of internal consistencies
(Cronbach’s alphas) and convergent validity (measured by
concurrent correlations with other social anxiety measures),
as well as factor structures of each social anxiety measure,
for Asian Americans and European Americans, respec-
tively. Overall our results, as shown in Table 3, indicated
satisfactory psychometric properties for Asian Americans,
and comparable factor structure for Asian Americans and
European Americans. The scores of all measures, both those
shown to be scalar invariant and those that only obtained
evidence for configural invariance, demonstrated good reli-
ability and validity estimates. However, these psychometric
properties should be interpreted with caution when a given
measure failed to attain evidence for metric invariance,
which indicates a fundamental difference in the respective
groups’ understanding of the construct.
Limitations and Future Directions
While the current study provided preliminary support for
internal consistency and validity of scores from the five
social anxiety measures and the four short forms, estimates
of the psychometric properties of these measures’ scores are
still lacking for ethnic groups other than European Americans
(Melka, Lancaster, Adams, Howarth, & Rodriguez, 2010).
Likewise, among Asian Americans, there was still very little
evidence for test–retest reliability and discriminant validity,
and researchers who studied social anxiety among ethnic
minority groups often erroneously cited evidence for crite-
rion-based validity based solely on studies of European
Americans. Future studies need to establish other evidence
for reliability and validity among social anxiety scores gen-
erated by Asian Americans and other ethnic minority mem-
bers. Such efforts could focus on test–retest correlations,
discriminant validity, or task-based criterion validity.
There is also a clear need to replicate our results of mea-
surement invariance in other samples of Asian Americans.
Asian American represents a diverse group that varies sig-
nificantly in their languages, immigration history, and cul-
tural traditions (Chin & Kameoka, 2006). Our sample was
limited to individuals of East Asian heritage (e.g., Japanese,
Chinese, Korean) and had only a few first generation immi-
grants (n = 29). Although the prior meta-analysis (Krieg &
Xu, 2015) found that generational status and acculturation
was not related to the mean ethnic group difference in
social anxiety, it remains to be seen whether other charac-
teristics of Asian Americans may contribute to higher social
anxiety among this ethnic group. Likewise, our sample con-
sisted of mostly female, undergraduate students who may
not be as representative of community or clinical samples.
Of particular note, prior findings have also demonstrated
that female participants tend to self-report higher social
anxiety compared with their male counterparts (e.g., Xu
et al., 2012). Future research could examine the measure-
ment invariance of these scales between men and women in
European American and Asian American samples. At the
same time, prior research suggests that despite these limita-
tions to external validity, the use of undergraduates to model
psychopathology has both empirical and clinical value
(Gotlib, 1984). More recently, epidemiological studies have
shown similar rates of social anxiety in undergraduate stu-
dents in comparison with their non-college-attending peers
(Blanco et al., 2008), suggesting that both college and
community samples may show a similar distribution in the
continuum of social anxiety symptoms.
Another potential limitation related to our sample char-
acteristics includes the limited sample size. Our sample
consisted of 232 Asian Americans and 193 European
Americans. While simulation studies demonstrate consis-
tent and acceptable results with the WLSMV estimator with
sample sizes of 400 cases (Muthén, du Toit, & Spisic, 1997),
this figure may be less relevant to the current study due to
our sample being divided by ethnic group in order to test for
measurement invariance. Cheung and Rensvold (2002) rec-
ommend sample sizes of at least 200 participants per group,
and one of our group’s sample size falls just short of that
benchmark.
It should be pointed out that evidence of measurement
invariance is not equivalent to that of cultural validity.
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Krieg et al. 11
Cultural validity refers to whether members of different
cultural group understand and interpret the content of
questions and the measurement procedure in the same way
(Greenfield, 1997). While results of measure invariance
are important in helping cross-cultural and clinical
researchers choose appropriate measures in comparing
social anxiety between Asian Americans and European
Americans, examination of cultural validity provides
additional evidence on why certain items of social anxiety
achieve or fail to achieve invariance across different cul-
tural or ethnic groups. As pointed out by Greenfield
(1997), studies that use mixed methods, including not only
standardized questionnaires but also qualitative methods
such as focus groups and ethnographic interviews, are
needed to further establish evidence of cultural validity of
these social anxiety measures in various cultural and eth-
nic groups.
Finally, the reliance on self-report questionnaires to
measure constructs such as social anxiety has been criti-
cized by methodologists due to the arbitrary metric of
Likert-type scales that may be particularly problematic in
cross-cultural comparisons (Blanton & Jaccard, 2006).
While a claim can be made in a relative sense, such that
Asian Americans may report higher social anxiety than
European Americans, there is no ground to argue that Asian
Americans tend to be socially anxious or are at risk for
developing social anxiety disorder, because high scores on
Likert-type scales (e.g., scoring a “7” on a 7-point scale)
says little about “true” level of the underlying social anxiety
construct, unless the meaning of such metric can be estab-
lished in relation to observation of socially anxious behav-
ior or diagnosis of social anxiety disorder. Additional work
is needed to establish a nomological network through which
the construct of social anxiety can be cross-validated with
other types of measures than self-reports, in various cultural
and ethnic groups.
Despite these limitations, the current study was the first
to comprehensively examine psychometric properties and
three types of invariance in all the social anxiety measures
that had been used more than once in comparisons of Asian
Americans and European Americans. Our findings pro-
vided systematic evidence for cross-cultural and clinical
researchers who are interested in understanding and
explaining both cultural similarities and differences in
social anxiety.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Notes
1. While the recently developed SPS-6, SIAS-6, and SPAI-18
have not yet been used in comparing social anxiety between
Asian Americans and European Americans, we investigated
the psychometric properties and measurement invariance
for these short forms due to both the popularity of the cor-
responding long forms (SPS, SIAS, and SPAI) and the prefer-
ence for short forms among clinical practitioners.
2. We also found evidence of configural, metric, and sca-
lar invariance for another measure: the Liebowitz Social
Anxiety Scale (Liebowitz, 1987). However, this result was
not included because Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale had
not been used to compare social anxiety between Asian
Americans and European Americans in prior studies.
3. Some researchers recommend using more stringent, empiri-
cally based cutoffs that vary based on the specific test of mea-
surement invariance. However, Cheung and Rensvold (2002)
conclude that between-model variation is quite small and that
general criteria can be used. For simplicity’s sake, we used
the general recommended cutoffs for the CFI and MFI.
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... (Krieg & Xu, 2015). Furthermore, Krieg, Xu, and Cicero (2016) showed that this cultural difference in social anxiety was not an artifact of nonequivalent measurement properties between the two groups. Using a series of measurement invariance analyses (Little, 1997;Vandenberg & Lance, 2000), Krieg et al. (2016) was able to replicate higher social anxiety among Asian Americans than European Americans based on comparison of latent group means. ...
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