Commentary: Mediation analysis, causal process, and cross-sectional data

Patrick E. Shrout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maxwell, Cole, and Mitchell (2011) extended the work of Maxwell and Cole (2007), which raised important questions about whether mediation analyses based on cross-sectional data can shed light on longitudinal mediation process. The latest article considers longitudinal processes that can only be partially explained by an intervening variable, and Maxwell et al. showed that the same general conclusions are obtained, namely that analyses of cross-sectional data will not reveal the longitudinal mediation process. While applauding the advances of the target article, this comment encourages the detailed exploration of alternate causal models in psychology beyond the autoregressive model considered by Maxwell et al. When inferences based on cross-sectional analyses are compared to alternate models, different patterns of bias are likely to be observed. I illustrate how different models of the causal process can be derived using examples from research on psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)852-860
Number of pages9
JournalMultivariate Behavioral Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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