Brief Research Report: Growth Models With Small Samples and Missing Data

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7 Scopus citations


Small samples are common in growth models due to financial and logistical difficulties of following people longitudinally. For similar reasons, longitudinal studies often contain missing data. Though full information maximum likelihood (FIML) is popular to accommodate missing data, the limited number of studies in this area have found that FIML tends to perform poorly with small-sample growth models. This report demonstrates that the fault lies not with how FIML accommodates missingness but rather with maximum likelihood estimation itself. We discuss how the less popular restricted likelihood form of FIML, along with small-sample-appropriate methods, yields trustworthy estimates for growth models with small samples and missing data. That is, previously reported small sample issues with FIML are attributable to finite sample bias of maximum likelihood estimation not direct likelihood. Estimation issues pertinent to joint multiple imputation and predictive mean matching are also included and discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Education
StateAccepted/In press - Sep 15 2017


  • Growth model
  • missing data
  • mixed effect model
  • multilevel model
  • small sample

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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