Send to

Choose Destination
Ann Epidemiol. 2014 Jan;24(1):75-7. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2013.10.007. Epub 2013 Oct 18.

Missing data in longitudinal studies: cross-sectional multiple imputation provides similar estimates to full-information maximum likelihood.

Author information

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Offord Centre for Child Studies, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Electronic address:



The aim of this research was to examine, in an exploratory manner, whether cross-sectional multiple imputation generates valid parameter estimates for a latent growth curve model in a longitudinal data set with nonmonotone missingness.


A simulated longitudinal data set of N = 5000 was generated and consisted of a continuous dependent variable, assessed at three measurement occasions and a categorical time-invariant independent variable. Missing data had a nonmonotone pattern and the proportion of missingness increased from the initial to the final measurement occasion (5%-20%). Three methods were considered to deal with missing data: listwise deletion, full-information maximum likelihood, and multiple imputation. A latent growth curve model was specified and analysis of variance was used to compare parameter estimates between the full data set and missing data approaches.


Multiple imputation resulted in significantly lower slope variance compared with the full data set. There were no differences in any parameter estimates between the multiple imputation and full-information maximum likelihood approaches.


This study suggested that in longitudinal studies with nonmonotone missingness, cross-sectional imputation at each time point may be viable and produces estimates comparable with those obtained with full-information maximum likelihood. Future research pursuing the validity of this method is warranted.


Latent growth curve model; Longitudinal studies; Missing data; Multiple imputation; Statistical; Structural equation model; models

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center