A strategy for selecting among alternative models for continuous longitudinal data

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Linear mixed models (LMMs) can be used to analyze continuous longitudinal response variables of research studies. Specific aims are then addressed through tests of fixed effects comparing means. However, generated fixed effects results can vary according to the choice of the covariance structure, and so strategies for selecting a model should be utilized first to identify an appropriate covariance structure. We describe alternative LMMs for analyzing continuous longitudinal data and discuss a strategy for using model selection criteria to choose among those models. This is accomplished through the analysis of an exemplar data set considering a wide variety of alternative models for the means, variances, and correlations. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Res Nurs Health 35:647–658, 2012

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