Investigating population heterogeneity with factor mixture models

Psychol Methods. 2005 Mar;10(1):21-39. doi: 10.1037/1082-989X.10.1.21.


Sources of population heterogeneity may or may not be observed. If the sources of heterogeneity are observed (e.g., gender), the sample can be split into groups and the data analyzed with methods for multiple groups. If the sources of population heterogeneity are unobserved, the data can be analyzed with latent class models. Factor mixture models are a combination of latent class and common factor models and can be used to explore unobserved population heterogeneity. Observed sources of heterogeneity can be included as covariates. The different ways to incorporate covariates correspond to different conceptual interpretations. These are discussed in detail. Characteristics of factor mixture modeling are described in comparison to other methods designed for data stemming from heterogeneous populations. A step-by-step analysis of a subset of data from the Longitudinal Survey of American Youth illustrates how factor mixture models can be applied in an exploratory fashion to data collected at a single time point.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*