A Comparison of ML, WLSMV, and Bayesian Methods for Multilevel Structural Equation Models in Small Samples: A Simulation Study

Multivariate Behavioral Research
Jana HoltmannMichael Eid


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 informat...Continue Reading


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Software Mentioned

R Development Core Team
Mplus Stan
R package “ MplusAutomation

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