Implementing Continuous Non-Normal Skewed Distributions in Latent Growth Mixture Modeling: An Assessment of Specification Errors and Class Enumeration


Recent advances have allowed for modeling mixture components within latent growth modeling using robust, skewed mixture distributions rather than normal distributions. This feature adds flexibility in handling non-normality in longitudinal data, through manifest or latent variables, by directly modeling skewed or heavy-tailed latent classes rather than assuming a mixture of normal distributions. The aim of this study was to assess through simulation the potential under- or over-extraction of latent classes in a growth mixture model when underlying data follow either normal, skewed-normal, or skewed-t distributions. In order to assess this, we implement skewed-t, skewed-normal, and conventional normal (i.e., not skewed) forms of the growth mixture model. The skewed-t and skewed-normal versions of this model have only recently been implemented, and relatively little is known about their performance. Model comparison, fit, and classification of correctly specified and mis-specified models were assessed through various indices. Findings suggest that the accuracy of model comparison and fit measures are dependent on the type of (mis)specification, as well as the amount of class separation between the latent classes. A secondary simulation exposed computation and accuracy difficulties under some skewed modeling contexts. Implications of findings, recommendations for applied researchers, and future directions are discussed; a motivating example is presented using education data.

Multivariate Behavioral Research