Items assessing perceived difficulty, i.e., the perception of the ease or difficulty of performing a given behaviour, are frequently used in health research. Unfortunately, they have been used to measure quite different constructs, suggesting confusion about the conceptual meaning of perceived difficulty. Building on research on perceived difficulty, this study used confirmatory factor analyses to compare a series of models that depicted different roles for perceived difficulty with respect to adolescents' marijuana use. Results demonstrated that models that view perceived difficulty as a measure of the affective component of attitude are significantly superior to models that view perceived difficulty as a measure of the evaluative component of attitude and/or as a measure of perceived behavioural control. It may well be that the conceptual mapping of perceived difficulty is a function of factors such as the behaviour under study or the extent to which a behaviour is perceived as controllable. Until there is conclusive evidence concerning the appropriate interpretation of perceived difficulty, the use of perceived difficulty items should be avoided.
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