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Nonlinear Autoregressive Latent Trajectory Models


Bauldry, Shawn & Bollen, Kenneth A. (2018). Nonlinear Autoregressive Latent Trajectory Models. Sociological Methodology, 48(1), 269-302. PMCID: PMC6699169


Autoregressive latent trajectory (ALT) models combine features of latent growth curve models and autoregressive models into a single modeling framework. The development of ALT models has focused primarily on models with linear growth components, but some social processes follow nonlinear trajectories. Although it is straightforward to extend ALT models to allow for some forms of nonlinear trajectories, the identification status of such models, approaches to comparing them with alternative models, and the interpretation of parameters have not been systematically assessed. In this paper we focus on two forms of nonlinear autoregressive latent trajectory (NLALT) models. The first form allows for a quadratic growth trajectory, a popular form of nonlinear latent growth curve models. The second form derives from latent basis models, or freed loading models, that allow for arbitrary growth processes. We discuss details concerning parameterization, model identification, estimation, and testing for the two forms of NLALT models. We include a simulation study that illustrates potential biases that may arise from fitting alternative models to data derived from an autoregressive process and individual-specific nonlinear trajectories. In addition, we include an extended empirical example modeling growth trajectories of weight from birth through age 2.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Sociological Methodology


Bauldry, Shawn
Bollen, Kenneth A.