Multilevel Modeling of Individual and Group Level Mediated Effects

Multivariate Behav Res. 2001 Apr 1;36(2):249-77. doi: 10.1207/S15327906MBR3602_06.


This article combines procedures for single-level mediational analysis with multilevel modeling techniques in order to appropriately test mediational effects in clustered data. A simulation study compared the performance of these multilevel mediational models with that of single-level mediational models in clustered data with individual- or group-level initial independent variables, individual- or group-level mediators, and individual level outcomes. The standard errors of mediated effects from the multilevel solution were generally accurate, while those from the single-level procedure were downwardly biased, often by 20% or more. The multilevel advantage was greatest in those situations involving group-level variables, larger group sizes, and higher intraclass correlations in mediator and outcome variables. Multilevel mediational modeling methods were also applied to data from a preventive intervention designed to reduce intentions to use steroids among players on high school football teams. This example illustrates differences between single-level and multilevel mediational modeling in real-world clustered data and shows how the multilevel technique may lead to more accurate results.