Application of a Hierarchical Linear Model to the Study of Adolescent Deviance in an Overlapping Cohort Design

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Hierarchical linear models provide a conceptual orientation and a flexible set of analytic techniques for studying psychological change in repeated measures studies. The researcher first formulates a model for individual change over time, with each individual's development characterized by a unique set of parameters. These parameters are then viewed as varying randomly over the population of persons. We illustrate this approach with data on attitudes toward deviance during adolescence (Raudenbush & Chan, 1992), indicating how one may assess the psychometric properties of an instrument for studying change, compare the adequacy of linear and curvilinear growth models, control for time invariant and time-varying covariates, and link overlapping cohorts of data. The results suggest that prodeviant attitudes characteristically increase during early adolescence, achieving a peak between 17 and 18 years of age. The typical trajectories for male and female adolescents have the same shape, although female adolescents tend to be less deviant than male adolescents at each age. We briefly consider the statistical power of tests of cohort differences at the points where they overlap.

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