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Total, Direct, and Indirect Effects in Structural Equation Models

Kenneth A. Bollen
Sociological Methodology
Vol. 17 (1987), pp. 37-69
DOI: 10.2307/271028
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/271028
Page Count: 33
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Total, Direct, and Indirect Effects in Structural Equation Models
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Abstract

Decomposing the total effects of one variable on another into direct and indirect effects has long been of interest to researchers who use path analysis. In this paper, I review the decomposition of effects in general structural equation models with latent and observed variables. I present the two approaches to defining total effects. One is based on sums of powers of coefficient matrices. The other defines total effects as reducedform coefficients. I show the conditions under which these two definitions are equivalent. I also compare the different types of specific indirect effects. These are the influences that are transmitted through particular variables in a model. Finally, I propose a more general definition of specific effects that includes the effects transmitted by any path or combination of paths. I also include a section on computing standard errors for all types of effects.

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