Virtual Levels and Role Models: N-Level Structural Equations Model of Reciprocal Ratings Data
A general latent variable modeling framework called n-Level Structural Equations Modeling (NL-SEM) for dependent data-structures is introduced. NL-SEM is applicable to a wide range of complex multilevel data-structures (e.g., cross-classified, switching membership, etc.). Reciprocal dyadic ratings obtained in round-robin design involve complex set of dependencies that cannot be modeled within Multilevel Modeling (MLM) or Structural Equations Modeling (SEM) frameworks. The Social Relations Model (SRM) for round robin data is used as an example to illustrate key aspects of the NL-SEM framework. NL-SEM introduces novel constructs such as ‘virtual levels’ that allows a natural specification of latent variable SRMs. An empirical application of an explanatory SRM for personality using xxM, a software package implementing NL-SEM is presented. Results show that person perceptions are an integral aspect of personality. Methodological implications of NL-SEM for the analyses of an emerging class of contextual- and relational-SEMs are discussed.