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The Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS) has been the most frequently used instrument for the measurement of hopelessness in the past 40 years. Only recently has it officially been translated into German. The psychometric properties and factor structure of the BHS have been cause for intensive debate in the past.
Based on a representative sample of the German population (N = 2450) item analysis including item sensitivity, item-total correlation and item difficulty was performed. Confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) for several factor solutions from the literature were performed. Multiple group factor analysis was performed to assess measurement invariance. Construct validity was assessed via the replication of well-established correlations with concurrently assessed measures.
Most items exhibited adequate properties. Items #4, #8 and #13 exhibited poor item characteristics– each of these items had previously received negative evaluations in international studies. A one-dimensional factor solution, favorable for the calculation and interpretation of a sum score, was regarded as adequate.
A bi-factor model with one content factor and two method factors (defined by positive/negative item coding) resulted in an excellent model fit. Cronbach’s alpha in the current sample was .87. Hopelessness, as measured by the BHS, significantly correlated in the expected direction with suicidal ideation (r = .36), depression (r = .53) and life satisfaction (r = −.53). Strict measurement invariance could be established regarding gender and depression status. Due to limited research regarding the interpretation of fit indices with dichotomous data, interpretation of CFA results needs to remain tentative.
The BHS is a valid measure of hopelessness in various subgroups of the general population. Future research could aim at replicating these findings using item response theory and cross-cultural samples. A one-dimensional bi-factor model seems appropriate even in a non-clinical population.