The impact of misspecifying class-specific residual variances in growth mixture models

  • Enders C
  • Tofighi D
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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of misspecifying a growth mixture model (GMM) by assuming that Level-1 residual variances are constant across classes, when they do, in fact, vary in each subpopulation. Misspecification produced bias in the within-class growth trajectories and variance components, and estimates were substantially less precise than those obtained from a correctly specified GMM. Bias and precision became worse as the ratio of the largest to smallest Level-1 residual variances increased, class proportions became more disparate, and the number of class-specific residual variances in the population increased. Although the Level-1 residuals are typically of little substantive interest, these results suggest that researchers should carefully estimate and report these parameters in published GMM applications.

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