Bias in longitudinal data analysis with missing data using typical linear mixed-effects modelling and pattern-mixture approach: An analytical illustration

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Abstract

We analytically derive the fixed-effects estimates in unconditional linear growth curve models by typical linear mixed-effects modelling (TLME) and by a pattern-mixture (PM) approach with random-slope-dependent two-missing-pattern missing not at random (MNAR) longitudinal data. Results showed that when the missingness mechanism is random-slope-dependent MNAR, TLME estimates of both the mean intercept and mean slope are biased because of incorrect weights used in the estimation. More specifically, the estimate of the mean slope is biased towards the mean slope for completers, whereas the estimate of the mean intercept is biased towards the opposite direction as compared to the estimate of the mean slope. We also discuss why the PM approach can provide unbiased fixed-effects estimates for random-coefficients-dependent MNAR data but does not work well for missing at random or outcome-dependent MNAR data. A small simulation study was conducted to illustrate the results and to compare results from TLME and PM. Results from an empirical data analysis showed that the conceptual finding can be generalized to other real conditions even when some assumptions for the analytical derivation cannot be met. Implications from the analytical and empirical results were discussed and sensitivity analysis was suggested for longitudinal data analysis with missing data.

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