The disaggregation of within-person and between-person effects in longitudinal models of change

Annu Rev Psychol. 2011;62:583-619. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100356.


Longitudinal models are becoming increasingly prevalent in the behavioral sciences, with key advantages including increased power, more comprehensive measurement, and establishment of temporal precedence. One particularly salient strength offered by longitudinal data is the ability to disaggregate between-person and within-person effects in the regression of an outcome on a time-varying covariate. However, the ability to disaggregate these effects has not been fully capitalized upon in many social science research applications. Two likely reasons for this omission are the general lack of discussion of disaggregating effects in the substantive literature and the need to overcome several remaining analytic challenges that limit existing quantitative methods used to isolate these effects in practice. This review explores both substantive and quantitative issues related to the disaggregation of effects over time, with a particular emphasis placed on the multilevel model. Existing analytic methods are reviewed, a general approach to the problem is proposed, and both the existing and proposed methods are demonstrated using several artificial data sets. Potential limitations and directions for future research are discussed, and recommendations for the disaggregation of effects in practice are offered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Research Design*