Background: Measurement equivalence is an essential prerequisite for making valid comparisons in mental health questionnaires across groups. In most methods used for assessing measurement equivalence, which is known as Differential Item Functioning (DIF), latent variables are assumed to be continuous. Objective: To compare a new method called Latent Class Regression (LCR) designed for discrete latent variable with the multiple indicators multiple cause (MIMIC) as a continuous latent variable technique to assess the measurement equivalence of the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), which is a cross deferent subgroup of Iranian nurses. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 2014 among 771 nurses working in the hospitals of Fars and Bushehr provinces of southern Iran. To identify the Minor Psychiatric Disorders (MPD), the nurses completed self-report GHQ-12 questionnaires and sociodemographic questions. Two uniform-DIF detection methods, LCR and MIMIC, were applied for comparability when the GHQ-12 score was assumed to be discrete and continuous, respectively. Results: The result of fitting LCR with 2 classes indicated that 27.4% of the nurses had MPD. Gender was identified as an influential factor of the level of MPD.LCR and MIMIC agree with detection of DIF and DIF-free items by gender, age, education and marital status in 83.3, 100.0, 91.7 and 83.3% cases, respectively. Conclusions: The results indicated that the GHQ-12 is to a great degree, an invariant measure for the assessment of MPD among nurses. High convergence between the two methods suggests using the LCR approach in cases of discrete latent variable, e.g. GHQ-12 and adequate sample size.
Key words: mental disorders, measurement equivalence, latent class regression, MIMIC model, GHQ-12.