Values Across the Lifespan Questionnaire (VALQUEST): Development of a New Values Assessment Tool for Use with Older Adults
AdvisorHayes, Steven C.
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Human values are a perennially important and popular topic in psychology. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), values are one of the six core processes have been shown to contribute to psychological flexibility (the ability consciously to contact the present moment fully and without needless defense, and to persist in or change behavior(s) in pursuit of one’s chosen values). Values in ACT may be conceptualized as a compass guiding a person’s behaviors in a direction. Values are also an important topic in geropsychology, often in the context of healthcare values and preferences. Even outside of healthcare settings, the aging process itself makes values work relevant. As we age, we must adapt to changing environments, diminishing cognitive and physical abilities, shrinking social circles, inevitable losses, and increased exposure to ageism. As the population demographics of the U.S. and other nations continues to shift toward older ages, there is a growing need for better treatments and assessment tools related to values that are suitable for use with older adults. The Values Across the Lifespan Questionnaire, or VALQUEST, was developed to explore a new and more concrete yet flexible approach for values assessment that could meet the needs of older adults specifically and adults more generally. The VALQUEST was administered to 488 adults (253 over the age of 55) along with other relevant measures. Factor analysis led to a reduction in items, an improved scoring system, and evidence for a three-factor structure consistent with the design of the measure. The VALQUEST showed compelling evidence of concurrent validity with its large correlations with a well-studied measure of values, the Valued Living Questionnaire (VLQ: Wilson, Sandoz, Kitchens, & Roberts, 2010). Construct validity was evidenced through VALQUEST’s significant and consistent correlations with theoretically related measures of psychological flexibility, committed action, depression, and life satisfaction. The VALQUEST adds the unique components of values identification (specifying and quantifying specific values from a provided list of exemplars) and assessment of the intrinsic or extrinsic motivation behind the values. In comparing the VALQUEST with the VLQ and measures of psychological flexibility and committed action as correlates of depression and life satisfaction, the VALQUEST was consistently related and often accounted for additional variance beyond well-established measures in these areas. Study limitations include collecting data at a single time point, leaving temporal reliability and measure reactivity unknown. The VALQUEST is a viable measure that can be used now and can be easily modified for future purposes. The present study provides a “proof of concept” for the strategy deployed to create VALQUEST. While originally conceived with older adults as a special population of interest, the values measurement approach can readily be applied to values measurement development with other groups, such as specific cultural groups, military veterans, medical students, and so on. It could also be used to assess broad values, not separated by life domains; or many additional domains beyond the three in the current version. Subparts of the VALQUEST would be well-suited for use in time series designs assessing the dynamic interplay between values and other variables in daily life using ecological momentary assessment. The VALQUEST provides unique qualitative information about individual values while still maintaining a low response burden and collecting quantitative data, opening up many new areas of research into human values.