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Twin Res Hum Genet. 2006 Jun;9(3):343-59.

Latent curve analyses of longitudinal twin data using a mixed-effects biometric approach.

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Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 90089, USA.


In a recent article McArdle and Prescott (2005) showed how simultaneous estimation of the biometric parameters can be easily programmed using current mixed-effects modeling programs (e.g., SAS PROC MIXED). This article extends these concepts to deal with mixed-effect modeling of longitudinal twin data. The biometric basis of a polynomial growth curve model was used by Vandenberg and Falkner (1965) and this general class of longitudinal models was represented in structural equation form as a latent curve model by McArdle (1986). The new mixed-effects modeling approach presented here makes it easy to analyze longitudinal growth-decline models with biometric components based on standard maximum likelihood estimation and standard indices of goodness-of-fit (i.e., chi(2), df, epsilon(a)). The validity of this approach is first checked by the creation of simulated longitudinal twin data followed by numerical analysis using different computer programs (i.e., Mplus, Mx, MIXED, NLMIXED). The practical utility of this approach is examined through the application of these techniques to real longitudinal data from the Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging (Pedersen et al., 2002). This approach generally allows researchers to explore the genetic and nongenetic basis of the latent status and latent changes in longitudinal scores in the absence of measurement error. These results show the mixed-effects approach easily accounts for complex patterns of incomplete longitudinal or twin pair data. The results also show this approach easily allows a variety of complex latent basis curves, such as the use of age-at-testing instead of wave-of-testing. Natural extensions of this mixed-effects longitudinal approach include more intensive studies of the available data, the analysis of categorical longitudinal data, and mixtures of latent growth-survival/frailty models.

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