NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ931996
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Nov
Pages: 27
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 132
ISSN: ISSN-0012-1649
Causal Inference and Developmental Psychology
Foster, E. Michael
Developmental Psychology, v46 n6 p1454-1480 Nov 2010
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. (Contains 1 table, 5 figures and 19 footnotes.)
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A