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Estimating Controlled Direct Effects of Restrictive Feeding Practices in the `Early Dieting in Girls' Study
Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series C (2015)
  • Yeying Zhu, University of Waterloo
  • Debashis Ghosh, university of colorado denver
  • Donna L Coffman, Pennsylvania State University
  • Jennifer S Williams, Pennsylvania State University

In this article, we examine the causal effect of parental restrictive feeding practices on children’s weight status. An important mediator we are interested in is children’s self-regulation status. Traditional mediation analysis (Baron and Kenny, 1986) applies a structural equation modelling (SEM) approach and decomposes the intent-to-treat (ITT) effect into direct and indirect effects. More recent approaches interpret the mediation effects based on the potential outcomes framework. In practice, there often exist confounders that jointly influence the mediator and the outcome. Inverse probability weighting based on propensity scores are used to adjust for confounding and reduce the dimensionality of confounders simultaneously. We show that combining machine learning algorithms (such as a generalized boosted model) and logistic regression to estimate the propensity scores can be more accurate and efficient in estimating the controlled direct effects than using logistic regression alone. The proposed methods are general in the sense that we can combine multiple candidate models and use the cross-validation criterion to select the optimal subset of the candidate models for combining. The criterion achieves a balance between the number of models we combine and the variability of the resulting estimator. A data application to the Early Dieting in Girls Study shows that the causal effect of mother’s restrictive feeding differs according to whether the daughter eats in the absence of hunger.

  • Causal inference,
  • Generalized boosted model,
  • Logistic regression,
  • Mediator,
  • Model combining,
  • Random forests
Publication Date
Citation Information
Yeying Zhu, Debashis Ghosh, Donna L Coffman and Jennifer S Williams. "Estimating Controlled Direct Effects of Restrictive Feeding Practices in the `Early Dieting in Girls' Study" Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series C (2015)
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