An adolescent version of the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test by jgarrett43mu


An adolescent version of the Michigan Alcoholism
Screening Test
Adolescence, Winter, 2002 by Mark Snow, Steven Thurber, Joele M. Hodgson

The binary-choice, 25-item Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST; Selzer, 1971) is probably the most

widely used test of its type for adults (Parsons, Wallbrown, & Myers, 1994). Its popularity is related in part

to speed of administration (approximately 5 minutes) and relative ease of scoring (see Radzid, Freeman,

& Mackenzie, 1999). The MAST has been used sporadically as an assessment instrument with adolescents

(e.g., Kadis, Malca-Vila, McNiel, & McClendon, 1990), but to our knowledge (based on a computer-assisted

literature search) there have been no attempts to modify the item content of the adult test to render it

more appropriate for adolescents. Certain MAST items refer to "wife" or "work," which may be foreign to

the life experiences of younger test-takers. Moreover, there are items dealing with drug-related physical

deterioration (e.g., liver problems) that may not be discriminating for young persons. Thus, the aim of the

present study was to develop a modified version of the MAST with item conten t appropriate for

adolescent respondents.


The modification of the MAST basically involved making item content consistent with the life experiences

of adolescents. Changes included substitution of "family member or significant other" for "wife" (item 3),

"boyfriend/girlfriend" for "wife"' (item 11), and "school" for "work" (items 14 and 16). Data were then

collected from 201 adolescents referred to an outpatient treatment center for evaluation of possible

substance abuse: 145 males and 56 females, ranging in age from 12 to 19 years (M = 16). There were

171 Caucasians, 28 Hispanics, and 2 Native Americans in the sample. Administration of the adolescent

MAST was part of a comprehensive series of assessments for chemical dependency problems. The

psychometric goal of the current investigation was the same as in any initial approach to test

construction: an internally consistent, homogeneous scale (see Nunnally, 1978). Accordingly, several

itemetric indexes of homogeneity were computed, including coefficient alpha, the average interitem

correlation, split- half reliability, and item-total correlations. Additionally, factor analytic procedures were

used to ascertain the tenability of a single-factor solution.


The items comprising the adolescent version of the MAST are presented in Table 1, together with

respective item means and item-total correlations. Item 7 is not included because the weighted scoring

procedures inexplicably use a weight of zero for this item; hence, it is not scored (see Selzer, 1971). The

average interitem correlation was .12, the split-half reliability was .65 and the alpha coefficient was .68.

These values are adequate for basic research, but are below the standards for tests used for applied

decision-making (Nunnally, 1978). Next, items with low endorsement or low item-total correlations were

deleted (items 3, 5, 18, and 25). Additionally, item 24 had poor overall relationships with the other items

and was also removed. These deletions increased alpha to .73, an acceptable value.

From a factor analytic perspective, item homogeneity is evinced by the emergence of a unitary factor with

essentially equal paths from each observed variable (item) to the latent variable (see Hoyle & Smith,

1994). It is important to note that this approach should not supplant traditional techniques (above) for

evaluating internal consistency. Maximum likelihood estimates (Amos; see Arbuckle, 1997) failed to

confirm a unitary factor for the modified MAST. A subsequent exploratory principal components analysis

suggested that both the 24- and 19-item scales are factorially complex. For the longer scale, nine

components were extracted based on eigenvalue 1 and scree-test criteria, accounting for 63% of scale

variance. Using the same criteria, seven components were extracted for the shorter scale, accounting for

64% of the variance.


The adolescent MAST did not demonstrate homogeneity congruent with that of the adult version (e.g.,

Zung, 1980). However, expunging certain psychometrically "poor" items increased internal consistency to

a still comparatively low but acceptable level. Nevertheless, the modified MAST, in its current binary form

with weighted scoring procedures, appears to be multidimensional in nature.

Items involving drug-related arrests (items 24 and 25) ostensibly detract from scale homogeneity. It is

noteworthy that these same items were likewise found to be disparate from other items in our earlier

study with the adult MAST (Thurber, Snow, Lewis, & Hodgson, 2001). It may be that arrests involving

drugs are fairly improbable events that do not necessarily covary with more pervasive and reliable

symptoms of substance abuse.

The item related to liver dysfunction (item 18) is one that should obviously be eliminated in a scale

designed for adolescents. Deleting items dealing with complaints from family members (item 3) and

feelings of guilt (item 5) also improved internal consistency to some extent. These items may have been

"poor" simply because of disproportionate responding in the dichotomized response format, unique to the

current participants. It is also possible that adolescents in general may be guarded with respect to

admitting feelings of guilt or acknowledging the private matter of complaints from important people in

their lives.

In our view, it is worthwhile to attempt a modified extension of the MAST to young people. There appears

to be a core of items from the modified MAST that may reliably differentiate adolescents in need of further

assessment for substance abuse. Further improvements in the psychometric properties of the adolescent

MAST might result by changing the response format from binary to multipoint (Comrey, 1978, cogently

discusses the itemetric problems associated with dichotomized forced-choice approaches). Further, the

weighted scoring procedures have never been justified empirically and include the incomprehensible zero

weighting for one item (related to personal attempts to limit drinking behavior) and its de facto

elimination from the total score. Future investigators might consider the psychometric characteristics of

the adolescent MAST following a change in the response format and a modification of the scoring system.

Table 1

Adolescent MAST Items, Means, and Item-Total Correlations

Item                                                     M        r

1. Do you feel you are a normal                        .59       .26


2. Have you ever awakened the                          .47       .29

morning after some drinking/using

the night before and found that

you could not remember a part of

the evening?

3. Does any family member or              .83    .09

significant other ever worry or

complain about your drinking/


4. Can you stop drinking/using            .23    .27

without a struggle after one or

two drinks or one or two uses?

5. Do you ever feel bad about your        .62    .09


6. Do friends or relatives think          .70    .27

you are a normal drinker/user?

8. Are you always able to stop            .42    .40

drinking/using when you want to?

9. Have you ever attended a               .70    .48

meeting of Alcoholics/Narcotics


10. Have you gotten into fights           .20    .45

when drinking/using?

11. Has drinking/using ever               .55    .37

created problems with you and your


12. Has any family member or              .71    .37

significant other ever gone to

anyone for help about your


13. Have you ever lost friends or         .26    .44

girlfriends/boyfriends because of


14. Have you ever gotten into             .57    .17

trouble at school because of


15. Have you ever lost a job              .12    .40

because drinking/using?

16. Have you ever neglected your

obligations, your family or school

for two or more days in a row

because you were drinking/using?          .31    .31

17. Do you ever drink/use before

noon?                                     .34    .26

18. Have you ever been told you

have liver trouble Cirrhosis?             .01    -.05

19. Have you ever had delirium            .13    .29

tremens (DTs), severe shaking,

heard voices, or seen things that

were not there after heavy


20. Have you ever gone to anyone

for help about your drinking/

using?                                    .58    .27

21. Have you ever been in a

hospital because of drinking/

using?                                    .49    .34

22. Have you ever been a patient in

a psychiatric hospital or on a

psychiatric ward of a general

hospital where drinking/using was

part of the problem?                      .11    .34

23. Have you ever been seen at a

psychiatric or mental health

clinic, or gone to a doctor,

social worker or clergyman for

help with an emotional problem

in which drinking/using had

played a part?                            .19    .34

24. Have you ever been arrested or

gotten a ticket when you have been

drinking/using? (For anything

other than a DUI.)                        2.77   .27

25. Have you ever been arrested for

drunk driving, driving after

drinking or drinking under the

influence?                                             .17      -.01

Note. Item 7 was deleted. Items 24 and 25 are scored by weighting the

number of reported arrests by 2.


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outpatient population. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 36, 1024-1030.

Mark Snow, Steven Thurber, and Joele M. Hodgson, Department of Psychology, Boise State University.

Reprint requests to Steven Thurber, Woodland Centers, 1125 S.E. Sixth Street, Willmar, Minnesota 56201.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Libra Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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