Affordable Access

deepdyve-link
Publisher Website

Causal inference and developmental psychology.

Authors
  • Foster, E Michael
Type
Published Article
Journal
Developmental psychology
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2010
Volume
46
Issue
6
Pages
1454–1480
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1037/a0020204
PMID: 20677855
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Causal inference is of central importance to developmental psychology. Many key questions in the field revolve around improving the lives of children and their families. These include identifying risk factors that if manipulated in some way would foster child development. Such a task inherently involves causal inference: One wants to know whether the risk factor actually causes outcomes. Random assignment is not possible in many instances, and for that reason, psychologists must rely on observational studies. Such studies identify associations, and causal interpretation of such associations requires additional assumptions. Research in developmental psychology generally has relied on various forms of linear regression, but this methodology has limitations for causal inference. Fortunately, methodological developments in various fields are providing new tools for causal inference-tools that rely on more plausible assumptions. This article describes the limitations of regression for causal inference and describes how new tools might offer better causal inference. This discussion highlights the importance of properly identifying covariates to include (and exclude) from the analysis. This discussion considers the directed acyclic graph for use in accomplishing this task. With the proper covariates having been chosen, many of the available methods rely on the assumption of "ignorability." The article discusses the meaning of ignorability and considers alternatives to this assumption, such as instrumental variables estimation. Finally, the article considers the use of the tools discussed in the context of a specific research question, the effect of family structure on child development.

Report this publication

Statistics

Seen <100 times