Alternative methods for assessing mediation in multilevel data: The advantages of multilevel sem

Kristopher J. Preacher, Zhen Zhang, Michael J. Zyphu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

545 Scopus citations


Multilevel modeling (MLM) is a popular way of assessing mediation effects with clustered data. Two important limitations of this approach have been identified in prior research and a theoretical rationale has been provided for why multilevel structural equation modeling (MSEM) should be preferred. However, to date, no empirical evidence of MSEM's advantages relative to MLM approaches for multilevel mediation analysis has been provided. Nor has it been demonstrated that MSEM performs adequately for mediation analysis in an absolute sense. This study addresses these gaps and finds that the MSEM method outperforms 2 MLM-based techniques in 2-level models in terms of bias and confidence interval coverage while displaying adequate efficiency, convergence rates, and power under a variety of conditions. Simulation results support prior theoretical work regarding the advantages of MSEM over MLM for mediation in clustered data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-182
Number of pages22
JournalStructural Equation Modeling
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Mediation
  • Multilevel modeling
  • Multilevel sem
  • Structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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