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Mental health symptom feigning among Hispanic inmates: An exploratory study of the Spanish translation of the Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test

1 November 2012


The few psychological assessment measures commercially available for the assessment of Spanish-speaking populations lack empirical foundation (Fernandez et al., 2007). This is concerning given the rising numbers of Spanish speakers entering the forensic/correctional systems for whom valid assessment is difficult without appropriate measures. In this study, the Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test (M-FAST; Miller, 2001) was translated and adapted into Spanish, with permission from the test publisher. The general purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate the psychometric, linguistic, and conceptual equivalence of the English and Spanish language versions of the M-FAST in a sample of 102 bilingual Hispanic incarcerated men. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (honest, uncoached, or coached) and completed the M-FAST in both English and Spanish on two separate occasions. Psychometrically, identical alpha coefficients were found for the English and Spanish M-FAST total scores (α =.97). Across language versions, uncoached participants obtained significantly higher scores than honest and coached responders. Similarly, coached participants scored significantly higher than genuine responders. Overall, very large effect sizes were observed on the total scores of the English (eta-squared = .87) and Spanish (eta-squared = .87) language versions. A cutoff score of total ≥ 5 generated optimal utility rates, with the English and Spanish versions of the M-FAST correctly classifying 94% and 93% of the sample, respectively. Concerning language equivalence, significant correlations were found between English and Spanish M-FAST total scores. The ability of the Spanish M-FAST to discriminate feigners from honest responders, as well as the high correlations indicative of language equivalence, suggest that both language versions are conceptually equivalent. Acculturation did not significantly influence total scores on either language version. Together, the results indicated that both language versions of the M-FAST are highly similar. If used appropriately in conjunction with multiple sources of information, then the Spanish M-FAST can assist in the determination of malingering among bilingual/bicultural populations. This is significant given the increasing numbers of Hispanic inmates entering correctional settings, the high prevalence of mental illness among inmates, and the limited amount of resources typically available to correctional practitioners.


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