Exploratory Factor Analysis With Small Samples and Missing Data

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74 Scopus citations


Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) is an extremely popular method for determining the underlying factor structure for a set of variables. Due to its exploratory nature, EFA is notorious for being conducted with small sample sizes, and recent reviews of psychological research have reported that between 40% and 60% of applied studies have 200 or fewer observations. Recent methodological studies have addressed small size requirements for EFA models; however, these models have only considered complete data, which are the exception rather than the rule in psychology. Furthermore, the extant literature on missing data techniques with small samples is scant, and nearly all existing studies focus on topics that are not of primary interest to EFA models. Therefore, this article presents a simulation to assess the performance of various missing data techniques for EFA models with both small samples and missing data. Results show that deletion methods do not extract the proper number of factors and estimate the factor loadings with severe bias, even when data are missing completely at random. Predictive mean matching is the best method overall when considering extracting the correct number of factors and estimating factor loadings without bias, although 2-stage estimation was a close second.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-652
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Personality Assessment
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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