Structural Equation Model Trees

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Abstract

In the behavioral and social sciences, structural equation models (SEMs) have become widely accepted as a modeling tool for the relation between latent and observed variables. SEMs can be seen as a unification of several multivariate analysis techniques. SEM Trees combine the strengths of SEMs and the decision tree paradigm by building tree structures that separate a data set recursively into subsets with significantly different parameter estimates in a SEM. SEM Trees provide means for finding covariates and covariate interactions that predict differences in structural parameters in observed as well as in latent space and facilitate theory-guided exploration of empirical data. We describe the methodology, discuss theoretical and practical implications, and demonstrate applications to a factor model and a linear growth curve model.

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