Skip to main content
Log in

Exploring Connections Between Moderators and Mediators: Commentary on Subgroup Analyses in Intervention Research

  • Published:
Prevention Science Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Although subgroup analyses, and moderator analyses more generally, in intervention research are fraught with analytic and conceptual challenges, they provide invaluable insights into the effectiveness of intervention strategies and the theoretical models upon which they rest. The papers in this Special Issue engage these challenges and offer investigators a set of strategies that will enhance how they think about, measure, test, and report evidence of moderated intervention effects. In this commentary, I echo the call for more thoughtful work on moderated intervention effects and, in particular, urge investigators to pursue opportunities to integrate questions regarding mediation as they work to specify how intervention strategies operate across populations, settings, and behavioral domains.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. A key exception to this observation are intervention strategies that rest on the premise that to be effective the intervention must be matched or tailored to fit a particular aspect of a person or situation (for a general overview, see King et al. 2008; Rothman and Baldwin 2012).

References

  • Almirall, D., McCaffrey, D. F., Ramchand, R., & Murphy, S. A. (2012). Subgroups analysis when treatment and moderators are time-varying. Prevention Science.

  • Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bloom, H. S., & Michalopoulos, C. (2012). When is the story in the subgroups? Strategies for interpreting and reporting intervention effects for subgroups. Prevention Science.

  • Borenstein, M., & Higgins, J. P. T., (2012). Meta-analysis and subgroups. Prevention Science.

  • Brown, C. H. et al. (2012). Methods for synthesizing findings on moderation effects across multiple randomized trials. Prevention Science.

  • Fairchild, A. J., & MacKinnon, D. P. (2009). A general model for testing mediation and moderation effects. Prevention Science, 10, 87–99.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Farrell, A. D., Henry, D. B., & Bettencourt, A. (2012). Methodological challenges examining subgroup differences: Examples from universal school-based youth violence prevention trials. Prevention Science.

  • Kiesler, D. J. (1966). Some myths of psychotherapy research and the search for a paradigm. Psychological Bulletin, 65, 110–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • King, A. C., Ahn, D. F., Atienza, A., & Kraemer, H. C. (2008). Exploring refinements in targeted behavioral medicine intervention to advance public health. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 35, 251–260.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kraemer, H. C., Kiernan, M., Essex, M., & Kupfer, D. J. (2008). How and why criteria defining moderators and mediators differ between the Baron & Kenny and MacArthur approaches. Health Psychology, 27, S101–S108.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lanza, S. T., & Rhodes, B. L. (2012). Latent class analysis: An alternative perspective on subgroup analysis in prevention and treatment. Prevention Science.

  • MacKinnon, D. P. (2008). Introduction to statistical mediation analysis. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • McGuire, W. J. (1989). A perspectivist approach to the strategic planning of programmatic scientific research. In B. Gholson, W. R. Shadish Jr., R. A. Neimeyer, & A. C. Houts (Eds.), Psychology of science: Contributions to metascience (pp. 214–245). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Muller, D., Judd, C. M., & Yzerbyt, V. Y. (2005). When moderation is mediated and mediation is moderated. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 853–863.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Paul, G. L. (1967). Strategy of outcome research in psychotherapy. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 31, 109–118.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Preacher, K. J., Rucker, D. D., & Hayes, A. F. (2007). Addressing moderated mediation hypotheses: Theory, methods, and prescriptions. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 42, 185–227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rothman, A. J. (2004). Is there nothing more practical than a good theory?: Why innovations and advances in health behavior change will arise if interventions are more theory-friendly. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 1, 11.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rothman, A. J., & Baldwin, A. S. (2012). A person x intervention strategy approach to understanding health behavior. In K. Deaux & M. Snyder (Eds.), Handbook of personality and social psychology (pp. 729–752). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rothman, A. J., & Salovey, P. (2007). The reciprocal relation between principles and practice: Social psychology and health behavior. In A. Kruglanski & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles (2nd ed., pp. 826–849). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wang, R., & Ware, J. H. (2012). Detecting moderator effects using subgroup analyses. Prevention Science.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alexander J. Rothman.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rothman, A.J. Exploring Connections Between Moderators and Mediators: Commentary on Subgroup Analyses in Intervention Research. Prev Sci 14, 189–192 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-012-0333-y

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-012-0333-y

Keywords

Navigation