Quantifying and Testing Indirect Effects in Simple Mediation Models When the Constituent Paths Are Nonlinear

Multivariate Behav Res. 2010 Aug 6;45(4):627-60. doi: 10.1080/00273171.2010.498290.


Most treatments of indirect effects and mediation in the statistical methods literature and the corresponding methods used by behavioral scientists have assumed linear relationships between variables in the causal system. Here we describe and extend a method first introduced by Stolzenberg (1980) for estimating indirect effects in models of mediators and outcomes that are nonlinear functions but linear in their parameters. We introduce the concept of the instantaneous indirect effect of X on Y through M and illustrate its computation and describe a bootstrapping procedure for inference. Mplus code as well as SPSS and SAS macros are provided to facilitate the adoption of this approach and ease the computational burden on the researcher.