Should researchers use single indicators, best indicators, or multiple indicators in structural equation models?

TitleShould researchers use single indicators, best indicators, or multiple indicators in structural equation models?
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsHayduk, Leslie, and L. Littvay
Journal titleBMC Medical Research Methodolog
Year2012
Volume12
Issue159
Abstract

Background
Structural equation modeling developed as a statistical melding of path analysis and factor analysis that obscured a fundamental tension between a factor preference for multiple indicators and path modeling’s openness to fewer indicators.

Discussion
Multiple indicators hamper theory by unnecessarily restricting the number of modeled latents. Using the few best indicators – possibly even the single best indicator of each latent – encourages development of theoretically sophisticated models. Additional latent variables permit stronger statistical control of potential confounders, and encourage detailed investigation of mediating causal mechanisms.

Summary
We recommend the use of the few best indicators. One or two indicators are often sufficient, but three indicators may occasionally be helpful. More than three indicators are rarely warranted because additional redundant indicators provide less research benefit than single indicators of additional latent variables. Scales created from multiple indicators can introduce additional problems, and are prone to being less desirable than either single or multiple indicators.

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2288-12-159
Publisher linkhttps://bmcmedresmethodol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2288-12-159
Unit: 
Department of Political Science
Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations
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