First order latent growth curve models (FGMs) estimate change based on a single observed variable and are widely used in longitudinal research. Despite significant advantages, second order latent growth curve models (SGMs), which use multiple indicators, are rarely used in practice, and not all aspects of these models are widely understood. In this article, our goal is to contribute to a deeper understanding of theoretical and practical differences between FGMs and SGMs. We define the latent variables in FGMs and SGMs explicitly on the basis of latent state-trait (LST) theory and discuss insights that arise from this approach. We show that FGMs imply a strict trait-like conception of the construct under study, whereas SGMs allow for both trait and state components. Based on a simulation study and empirical applications to the CES-D depression scale (Radloff, 1977) we illustrate that, as an important practical consequence, FGMs yield biased reliability estimates whenever constructs contain state components, whereas reliability estimates based on SGMs were found to be accurate. Implications of the state-trait distinction for the measurement of change via latent growth curve models are discussed.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/christian-geiser/26/