Attrition of older adults in longitudinal surveys: Detection and correction of sample selection bias using multigenerational data

Du Feng, Merril D Silverstein, Roseann Giarrusso, John J. McArdle, Vern L. Bengtson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations


Objectives. The purpose of this study was (a) to investigate whether attrition due to death and nonresponse leads to bias in estimated growth-decline trajectories when only complete data are used in longitudinal research, and (b) to examine the extent of the bias and possible solutions. Methods. The study sample was a subset of the Longitudinal Study of Generations and included data from 208 G1-G2 parent-child dyads and 538 G2-G3 dyads over 30 years. We used a latent growth-decline curve model based on full information maximum likelihood estimation in order to compare parents' and adult children's reports on older respondents' health and intergenerational solidarity by parents' attrition status. Results. Results indicated that attrition due to mortality biased estimates of respondents' assessments of their functional health status over time, and parents' perceptions of the quality of the parent-child relationship deteriorated more rapidly among those who died by Time 7, but nonresponse did not seriously bias estimates of these measures. Using proxies, we found that functional impairment increased more rapidly when children reported about parents, especially in advanced old age. Discussion. These results support the use of full information in estimating growth curves where mortality is present but raise concerns when using child proxies to evaluate parental health or the quality of intergenerational relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychology(all)

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