Hopes and cautions in implementing Bayesian structural equation modeling

Robert C. MacCallum, Michael C. Edwards, Li Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Muthén and Asparouhov (2012) have proposed and demonstrated an approach to model specification and estimation in structural equation modeling (SEM) using Bayesian methods. Their contribution builds on previous work in this area by (a) focusing on the translation of conventional SEM models into a Bayesian framework wherein parameters fixed at zero in a conventional model can be respecified using small-variance priors and (b) implementing their approach in software that is widely accessible. We recognize potential benefits for applied researchers as discussed by Muthén and Asparouhov, and we also see a tradeoff in that effective use of the proposed approach introduces increased demands in terms of expertise of users to navigate new complexities in model specification, parameter estimation, and evaluation of results. We also raise cautions regarding the issues of model modification and model fit. Although we see significant potential value in the use of Bayesian SEM, we also believe that effective use will require an awareness of these complexities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)340-345
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Methods
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian statistics
  • Factor analysis
  • Structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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