A comparison of ML, WLSMV and Bayesian methods for multilevel structural equation models in small samples: A simulation study

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Multilevel structural equation models are increasingly applied in psychological research. With increasing model complexity, estimation becomes computationally demanding, and small sample sizes pose further challenges on estimation methods relying on asymptotic theory. Recent developments of Bayesian estimation techniques may help to overcome the shortcomings of classical estimation techniques. The use of potentially inaccurate prior information may, however, have detrimental effects, especially in small samples. The present Monte Carlo simulation study compares the statistical performance of classical estimation techniques with Bayesian estimation using different prior specifications for a two-level SEM with either continuous or ordinal indicators. Using two software programs (Mplus and Stan), differential effects of between- and within-level sample sizes on estimation accuracy were investigated. Moreover, it was tested to which extent inaccurate priors may have detrimental effects on parameter estimates in categorical indicator models. For continuous indicators, Bayesian estimation did not show performance advantages over ML. For categorical indicators, Bayesian estimation outperformed WLSMV solely in case of strongly informative accurate priors. Weakly informative inaccurate priors did not deteriorate performance of the Bayesian approach, while strong informative inaccurate priors led to severely biased estimates even with large sample sizes. With diffuse priors, Stan yielded better results than Mplus in terms of parameter estimates.
ZeitschriftMultivariate Behavioral Research
Seiten (von - bis)661-680
Anzahl der Seiten20
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 02.09.2016