Multilevel survival analysis: Studying the timing of children's recurring behaviors

Jessica P. Lougheed, Lizbeth Benson, Pamela M. Cole, Nilam Ram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The timing of events (e.g., how long it takes a child to exhibit a particular behavior) is often of interest in developmental science. Multilevel survival analysis (MSA) is useful for examining behavioral timing in observational studies (i.e., video recordings) of children's behavior. We illustrate how MSA can be used to answer 2 types of research questions. Specifically, using data from a study of 117 children 36 months old (SD = .38) during a frustration task, we examined the timing of their recurring anger expressions, and how this is related to (a) negative affectivity, a dimension of temperament related to the ability to regulate emotions, and (b) children's strategy use (distraction, bids to their mother). Contrary to expectations, negative affectivity was not associated with the timing of children's recurring anger expressions. As expected, children's recurring anger expressions were less likely to occur in the seconds when children were using a distraction strategy, whereas they were more likely when children made bids to their mother. MSA is a flexible analytic technique that, when applied to observational data, can yield valuable insights into the dynamics of children's behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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