HIV Treatment Compliance and Social Support: Scaling the Variables

Critique of the Scale and the Report on its Reliability and Validity

The study in question will require measuring the relationship between the two variables: perceived social support (the independent variable) and HIV treatment compliance (the dependent variable). It is possible to measure the treatment compliance as a percentage of pills that were taken over the last week (out of the number of pills that should have been taken) (Feaster et al., 2010). Measuring the percentage of the pills taken should be a reliable scale. On the other hand, social support is a complex phenomenon, so measuring and scaling it is considerably more difficult (Trochim, 2006).

For the current study, it is possible to utilize the 10-item Duke Social Support Index (DSSI-10) offered by Wardian, Robbins, Wolfersteig, Johnson, and Dustman (2013). The DSSI-10 consists of 10 questions that can be used to assess the social support that respondents perceive they get. Factor analysis revealed that two main factors are estimated by this questionnaire: social satisfaction and social interaction; but further analysis revealed they should only be measured together, as parts of the DSSI-10 test (Wardian et al., 2013).

Of course, it is possible to state that phenomenon of social support has more aspects than those which are measured by this test (Frankfort-Nachmias & Nachmias, 2015). However, the authors recommend using the test for diverse adult populations in epidemiological surveys (Wardian et al., 2013). Also, the test’s brevity is an important advantage, for the test should be able to be easily completed by individuals with any level of education, which may be critical for the current study.

In addition, it is important to assess some other aspects of statistical procedures (Buchner, Erdfelder, Faul, & Lang, n.d.). The DSSI-10 test and the corresponding scale have been tested for reliability and validity. The validity was “supported theoretically by consistent associations between the DSSI and living alone, general health status, and quality of life” (Wardian et al., 2013, p. 104). The reliability was estimated by employing Cronbach’s α, which can be used to assess the level of internal consistency; the total scale had Cronbach’s α=.74, whereas the social satisfaction subscale had Cronbach’s α=.77 (Wardian et al., 2013, p. 104).

Because the scale was tested for a diverse population, its reliability and validity may be extrapolated to many other populations as well. However, this test may be unsuitable for non-adults.

The Methods Used to Test the Reliability and Validity of the Scale

The scale’s reliability was tested by using Cronbach’s α; the values of at least.7 are generally considered acceptable. Cronbach’s α is a common measure of reliability/internal consistency (Field, 2013), and no objections against using it will be made.

On the other hand, validity was tested by using, among others, such associations as “general health status, and quality of life” (Wardian et al., 2013, p. 104), which may be a suboptimal way of assessing validity, because social support, apparently, is quite different from quality of life or general health status, even though there should be correlations. It might be possible to test the validity of DSSI-10 by using associations with other aspects of one’s communication with friends, such as the ability to borrow money from friends or stay in their house if needed; although, of course, measuring these aspects and using them to assess the validity of a social support test might also cause problems.

The Scale

Both the questions for the DSSI-10 and the ways to create a scale can be obtained from Wardian et al. (2013).


Buchner, A., Erdfelder, E., Faul, F., & Lang, A.-G. (n.d.). G*Power: Statistical power analyses for Windows and Mac. Web.

Feaster, D. J., Brincks, A. M., Mitrani, V. B., Prado, G., Schwartz, S. J., & Szapocznik, J. (2010). The efficacy of structural ecosystems therapy for HIV medication adherence with African American women. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(1), 51-59. Web.

Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Frankfort-Nachmias, C., & Nachmias, D. (2015). Research methods in the social sciences (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth.

Trochim, W. M. K. (2006). Scaling. Web.

Wardian, J., Robbins, D., Wolfersteig, W., Johnson, T., & Dustman, P. (2013). Validation of the DSSI-10 to measure social support in a general population. Research on Social Work Practice, 23(1), 100-106. Web.