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How to Build a Communicative Development Inventory: Insights From 43 Adaptations

Publication at Faculty of Arts |


Purpose:This article reviews 43 adaptations of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (MB-CDIs), a tool used for measuring children's communicative and language skills. The aim is to provide an overview of different approaches to develop local versions of the instrument (reflecting linguistic and cultural specifics) and to formulate recommendations and suggestions that expand the current guidelines of the MB-CDI Advisory Board.

The article also discusses cross-linguistic differences in the structure of this tool, as well as the availability of sources for the language-specific MB-CDI adaptations. Conclusions:Strategies differ in the construction of the inventory contents and in the norming phase, as well as in documenting reliability and validity.

The most frequent strategies in developing the item lists are translations of existing CDIs and pilot administrations; relatively recent strategies include consultations with child development experts. The norming approach varies in, for example, the number of participants and techniques of administrations.

When establishing age-related norms, different methods of growth curve construction are used. We recommend methods that consider the complete data set and provide a code example.

We suggest that the reliability of the tool should be documented not only as internal consistency but also using test-retest measures, ideally combined with interrater agreement. It is desirable that adaptations establish criterion validity against other measures of language development, such as structured tests, spontaneous language samples, or experimental methods.

In summary, by critically reviewing the different adaptation strategies, the present review article provides guidance for teams that adapt the MB-CDI into new languages.