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Dev Psychol. 2009 Jul;45(4):1195-9. doi: 10.1037/a0015665.

Use of missing data methods in longitudinal studies: the persistence of bad practices in developmental psychology.

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1
Department of Child Development, Tufts University, USA. helena.jelicic@alumni.tufts.edu

Abstract

Developmental science rests on describing, explaining, and optimizing intraindividual changes and, hence, empirically requires longitudinal research. Problems of missing data arise in most longitudinal studies, thus creating challenges for interpreting the substance and structure of intraindividual change. Using a sample of reports of longitudinal studies obtained from three flagship developmental journals-Child Development, Developmental Psychology, and Journal of Research on Adolescence-we examined the number of longitudinal studies reporting missing data and the missing data techniques used. Of the 100 longitudinal studies sampled, 57 either reported having missing data or had discrepancies in sample sizes reported for different analyses. The majority of these studies (82%) used missing data techniques that are statistically problematic (either listwise deletion or pairwise deletion) and not among the methods recommended by statisticians (i.e., the direct maximum likelihood method and the multiple imputation method). Implications of these results for developmental theory and application, and the need for understanding the consequences of using statistically inappropriate missing data techniques with actual longitudinal data sets, are discussed.

PMID:
19586189
DOI:
10.1037/a0015665
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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