by Thomas Janoski
(April 9, 2014) — In an effort to train University of Kentucky graduate students and help researchers, the Quantitative Initiative for Policy and Social Research (QIPSR) is bringing four of the most sophisticated methodologists in America for a mini-conference April 10-11 and a workshop May 15-18 on structural equation models (SEM). This method goes far beyond the typical single equation explanation of social science voting, health, participation, protesting or learning. It encompasses the combination of up to hundreds of variables into a complex system of meaningful behavior.
Judea Pearl, the award-winning philosopher and computer expert, refers to it as a method of “pivotal importance” that can sometimes be “confusing, enigmatic and controversial” to use. This mini-conference and May workshop seek to present these methods so the UK social science community can use this powerful methodology for their own work.
UK Psychology Professor Michele Martel illustrated the method at the “prequel meeting” in March by presenting a study that assessed a novel way to empirically integrate mother, father and teacher ratings of children with ADHD symptoms to generate a reliable diagnosis. This method was then externally validated in relation to “gold standard” psychiatric and psychological expert evaluation and diagnosis.
As a result, SEM allows for the integration of mother, father and teacher ordinal ratings of the 18 symptoms of ADHD via the component factors of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity in 700 children, while also accounting for the presence of siblings and other contextual factors. Using SEM allows researchers to integrate parent and teacher ratings to better diagnose psychological conditions and provide children the therapeutic intervention they need at a much earlier stage in their development.
The challenges of this complex method are immense, so QIPSR has invited two of the recognized world experts in this area, Professor Kenneth Bollen from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sociology department and Professor Rick Hoyle from the Duke University psychology and neuroscience department, to explain the challenges and opportunities of this powerful method.
Bollen is a fellow in the American Statistical Association and a Immerwhar Distinguished Professor who has worked on comparative democracy and social psychological issues. He is known for his cutting edge innovations in structural equation modeling. Hoyle is the director of the Center for the Study of Adolescent Risk and Resilience (and former chair of the psychology department at UK). He is the editor of “Handbook of Structural Equation Modeling” (2012).
They will be joined by Sandra Marquatt-Pyatt of Michigan State University, who has taught SEM at the Interuniversity Consortium of Political and Social Research summer program, and Shawn Bauldry from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Marquatt-Pyatt will present a paper on SEM in environmental protection, and Bauldry will present on helping children at risk.