A psychometric approach to theory-based behavior change intervention development: example from the Colorado Meaning-Activity Project
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Background: There has been a notable disconnect between theories of behavior change and behavior change interventions. Because few interventions are both explicitly and adequately theory-based, investigators cannot assess the impact of theory on intervention effectiveness. Theory-based interventions, designed to deliberately engage the theory's proposed mechanisms of change, are needed to adequately test theories. Thus, systematic approaches to theory-based intervention development are needed. Purpose: This article will introduce and discuss the psychometric method of developing theory-based interventions. Methods: The psychometric approach to intervention development utilizes basic psychometric principles at each step of the intervention development process in order to build a theoretically driven intervention to, subsequently, be tested in process (mechanism) and outcome studies. Five stages of intervention development are presented as follows: (i) Choice of theory; (ii) Identification and characterization of key concepts and expected relations; (iii) Intervention construction; (iv) Initial testing and revision; and (v) Empirical testing of the intervention. Results: Examples of this approach from the Colorado Meaning-Activity Project (COMAP) are presented. Based on self-determination theory integrated with meaning or purpose, and utilizing a motivational interviewing approach, the COMAP intervention is individually based with an initial interview followed by smart phone-delivered interventions for increasing daily activity. Conclusions: The psychometric approach to intervention development is one method to ensure careful consideration of theory in all steps of intervention development. This structured approach supports developing a research culture that endorses deliberate and systematic operationalization of theory into behavior change intervention from the outset of intervention development.
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