Causal Mediation Analysis in the Presence of Post-treatment Confounding Variables: A Monte Carlo Simulation Study

Yasemin Kisbu-Sakarya, David P. MacKinnon, Matthew J. Valente, Esra Çetinkaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In many disciplines, mediating processes are usually investigated with randomized experiments and linear regression to determine if the treatment affects the outcome through a mediator. However, randomizing the treatment will not yield accurate causal direct and indirect estimates unless certain assumptions are satisfied since the mediator status is not randomized. This study describes methods to estimate causal direct and indirect effects and reports the results of a large Monte Carlo simulation study on the performance of the ordinary regression and modern causal mediation analysis methods, including a previously untested doubly robust sequential g-estimation method, when there are confounders of the mediator-to-outcome relation. Results show that failing to measure and incorporate potential post-treatment confounders in a mediation model leads to biased estimates, regardless of the analysis method used. Results emphasize the importance of measuring potential confounding variables and conducting sensitivity analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2067
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume11
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 14 2020

Keywords

  • causality
  • g-estimation
  • mediation
  • propensity score
  • sequential ignorability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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