A Comparison of Multilevel Mediation Modeling Methods

Recommendations for Applied Researchers

Published in: Multivariate Behavioral Research, Volume 54, Issue 3, pages 338–359 (2019). doi: 10.1080/00273171.2018.1527676

Posted on RAND.org on February 17, 2021

by Christina K. Zigler, Feifei Ye

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Multilevel structural equation modeling (MSEM) has been proposed as a valuable tool for estimating mediation in multilevel data and has known advantages over traditional multilevel modeling, including conflated and unconflated techniques (CMM & UMM). Recent methodological research has focused on comparing the three methods for 2-1-1 designs, but in regards to 1-1-1 mediation designs, there are significant gaps in the published literature that prevent applied researchers from making educated decisions regarding which model to employ in their own specific research design. A Monte Carlo study was performed to compare MSEM, UMM, and CMM on relative bias, confidence interval coverage, Type I Error, and power in a 1-1-1 model with random slopes under varying data conditions. Recommendations for applied researchers are discussed and an empirical example provides context for the three methods.

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