Heywood Cases in Unidimensional Factor Models and Item Response Models for Binary Data

Selena Wang, De Boeck Paul De Boeck, Marcel Yotebieng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Heywood cases are known from linear factor analysis literature as variables with communalities larger than 1.00, and in present day factor models, the problem also shows in negative residual variances. For binary data, factor models for ordinal data can be applied with either delta parameterization or theta parametrization. The former is more common than the latter and can yield Heywood cases when limited information estimation is used. The same problem shows up as non convergence cases in theta parameterized factor models and as extremely large discriminations in item response theory (IRT) models. In this study, we explain why the same problem appears in different forms depending on the method of analysis. We first discuss this issue using equations and then illustrate our conclusions using a small simulation study, where all three methods, delta and theta parameterized ordinal factor models (with estimation based on polychoric correlations and thresholds) and an IRT model (with full information estimation), are used to analyze the same datasets. The results generalize across WLS, WLSMV, and ULS estimators for the factor models for ordinal data. Finally, we analyze real data with the same three approaches. The results of the simulation study and the analysis of real data confirm the theoretical conclusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-154
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Psychological Measurement
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Heywood cases
  • factor model
  • item response model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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