Testing Mediational Models With Longitudinal Data: Questions and Tips in the Use of Structural Equation Modeling
David A. Cole
Scott E. Maxwell
University of Notre Dame
R. M. Baron and D. A. Kenny (1986) provided clarion conceptual and methodological guidelines for testing mediational models with cross-sectional data. Graduating from cross-sectional to longitudinal designs enables researchers to make more rigorous inferences about the causal relations implied by such models. In this transition, misconceptions and erroneous assumptions are the norm. First, we describe some of the questions that arise (and misconceptions that sometimes emerge) in longitudinal tests of mediational models. We also provide a collection of tips for structural equation modeling (SEM) of mediational processes. Finally, we suggest a series of 5 steps when using SEM to test mediational processes in longitudinal designs: testing the measurement model, testing for added components, testing for omitted paths, testing the stationarity assumption, and estimating the mediational effects.
The present analysis, using the NLSY97, attempts to model the structural relationship between the latent second-order g factor extracted from the 12 ASVAB subtests, the parental SES latent factor from 3 indicators of parental SES, and the GPA latent factor from 5 domains of grade point averages. A structural equation modeling (SEM) bootstrapping approach combined with a Predictive Mean Matching (PMM) multiple imputation has been employed. The structural path from parental SES to GPA, independently of g, appears to be trivial in the black, hispanic, and white population. The analysis is repeated for the 3 ACT subtests, yielding an ACT-g latent factor. The same conclusion is observed. Most of the effect of SES on GPA appears to be mediated by g. Adding grade variable substantially increases the contribution of parental SES on the achievement factor, which was partially mediated by g. Missing data is handled with PMM multiple imputation. Univariate and multivariate normality tests are carried out in SPSS and AMOS, and through bootstrapping. Full result provided in EXCEL at the end of the article.