Structural equation models (SEM), or confirmatory factor analysis as a special case, contain model parameters at the measurement part and the structural part. In most social-science SEM applications, all parameters are simultaneously estimated in a one-step approach (e.g., with maximum likelihood estimation). In a recent article, Rosseel and Loh (2022, Psychol. Methods) proposed a two-step structural after measurement (SAM) approach to SEM that estimates the parameters of the measurement model in the first step and the parameters of the structural model in the second step. Rosseel and Loh claimed that SAM is more robust to local model misspecifications (i.e., cross loadings and residual correlations) than one-step maximum likelihood estimation. In this article, it is demonstrated with analytical derivations and simulation studies that SAM is generally not more robust to misspecifications than one-step estimation approaches. Alternative estimation methods are proposed that provide more robustness to misspecifications. SAM suffers from finite-sample bias that depends on the size of factor reliability and factor correlations. A bootstrap-bias-corrected LSAM estimate provides less biased estimates in finite samples. Nevertheless, we argue in the discussion section that applied researchers should nevertheless adopt SAM because robustness to local misspecifications is an irrelevant property when applying SAM. Parameter estimates in a structural model are of interest because intentionally misspecified SEMs frequently offer clearly interpretable factors. In contrast, SEMs with some empirically driven model modifications will result in biased estimates of the structural parameters because the meaning of factors is unintentionally changed.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)631-672
Publication statusPublished - 22.07.2022
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    Research areas

  • Methodological research and method development - structural equation modeling, model misspecification, structural after measurement approach, robust loss function

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