The Impact of Missing Risk Factor Data on Semiparametric Group-Based Trajectory Models

James V. Ray, Christopher J. Sullivan, Thomas Loughran, Shayne E. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: To investigate how missing data (Missing Completely at Random [MCAR] vs. Missing Not at Random [MNAR]) on risk factors can impact trajectory solutions (i.e., latent class probabilities) and coefficient estimates capturing the relationship between covariates and trajectory group solutions using a semiparametric group-based trajectory modeling (GBTM) approach. Methods: To address this issue, we conducted a systematic investigation using Monte Carlo simulation. Data were generated from a population with known growth parameters and risk factors. Observations for risk factors were then systematically deleted in a way that reflects key missing data assumptions (MCAR and MNAR). Models were then estimated to test the sensitivity of the estimates to each missing data scenario. Results: Two key findings emerged: (1) trajectory solutions were largely unaffected by missing data on risk factors; and, (2) there was some degree of bias in estimating relationships between risk factors and trajectory group membership when data were missing on those risk factors. Conclusions: GBTM may be useful for testing etiological explanations of long-term patterns of offending. Missing data on risk factors poses a threat to this approach, however.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-296
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Law
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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