Attrition in developmental psychology: A review of modern missing data reporting and practices
Inherent in applied developmental sciences is the threat to validity and generalizability due to missing data as a result of participant drop-out. The current paper provides an overview of how attrition should be reported, which tests can examine the potential of bias due to attrition (e.g., t-tests, logistic regression, Little's MCAR test, sensitivity analysis), and how it is best corrected through modern missing data analyses. To amend this discussion of best practices in managing and reporting attrition, an assessment of how developmental sciences currently handle attrition was conducted. Longitudinal studies (n = 541) published from 2009-2012 in major developmental journals were reviewed for attrition reporting practices and how authors handled missing data based on recommendations in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2010). Results suggest attrition reporting is not following APA recommendations, quality of reporting did not improve since the APA publication, and a low proportion of authors provided sufficient information to convey that data properly met the MAR assumption. An example based on simulated data demonstrates bias that may result from various missing data mechanisms in longitudinal data, the utility of auxiliary variables for the MAR assumption, and the need for viewing missingness along a continuum from MAR to MNAR.
International Journal of Behavioral Development
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Nicholson, Deboeck, P. R., & Howard, W. (2017). Attrition in developmental psychology: A review of modern missing data reporting and practices. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 41(1), 143–153. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025415618275