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J Fam Psychol. 2005 Mar;19(1):111-20.

Designing, testing, and interpreting interactions and moderator effects in family research.

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Department of Psychology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0345, USA.


This article is a primer on issues in designing, testing, and interpreting interaction or moderator effects in research on family psychology. The first section focuses on procedures for testing and interpreting simple effects and interactions, as well as common errors in testing moderators (e.g., testing differences among subgroup correlations, omitting components of products, and using median splits). The second section, devoted to difficulties in detecting interactions, covers such topics as statistical power, measurement error, distribution of variables, and mathematical constraints of ordinal interactions. The third section, devoted to design issues, focuses on recommendations such as including reliable measures, enhancing statistical power, and oversampling extreme scores. The topics covered should aid understanding of existing moderator research as well as improve future research on interaction effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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