Handling Missing Data With Multilevel Structural Equation Modeling and Full Information Maximum Likelihood Techniques

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Abstract

With increasing access to population-based data and electronic health records for secondary analysis, missing data are common. In the social and behavioral sciences, missing data frequently are handled with multiple imputation methods or full information maximum likelihood (FIML) techniques, but healthcare researchers have not embraced these methodologies to the same extent and more often use either traditional imputation techniques or complete case analysis, which can compromise power and introduce unintended bias. This article is a review of options for handling missing data, concluding with a case study demonstrating the utility of multilevel structural equation modeling using full information maximum likelihood (MSEM with FIML) to handle large amounts of missing data. MSEM with FIML is a parsimonious and hypothesis-driven strategy to cope with large amounts of missing data without compromising power or introducing bias. This technique is relevant for nurse researchers faced with ever-increasing amounts of electronic data and decreasing research budgets. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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