Latent class analysis (LCA) has proven to be a useful tool for identifying qualitatively different population subgroups who may be at varying levels of risk for negative outcomes. Recent methodological work has improved techniques for linking latent class membership to distal outcomes; however, these techniques do not adjust for potential confounding variables that may provide alternative explanations for observed relations. Inverse propensity score weighting provides a way to account for many confounders simultaneously, thereby strengthening causal inference of the effects of predictors on outcomes. Although propensity score weighting has been adapted to LCA with covariates, there has been limited work adapting it to LCA with distal outcomes. The current study proposes a step-by-step approach for using inverse propensity score weighting together with the “Bolck, Croon, and Hagenaars” approach to LCA with distal outcomes (i.e., the BCH approach), in order to estimate the causal effects of reasons for alcohol use latent class membership during the year after high school (at age 19) on later problem alcohol use (at age 35) with data from the longitudinal sample in the Monitoring the Future study. A supplementary appendix provides evidence for the accuracy of the proposed approach via a small-scale simulation study, as well as sample programming code to conduct the step-by-step approach.
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The earliest timeframe during which problem alcohol use could be assessed with the MTF data was the last 5 years prior to age 35. If there were individuals who developed problem alcohol use and fully recovered by age 30, we were unable to identify them as positive cases.
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The authors wish to thank Deborah D. Kloska for help with management of the Monitoring the Future data sets and Donna L. Coffman for early discussions that helped inform our thinking about causal latent class exposures.
This research was conducted at The Pennsylvania State University and The University of Michigan, and was supported by a seed grant from the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) and awards P50-DA039838, P50-DA010075, and R01-DA037902 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); data collection was supported by awards R01-DA001411 and R01-DA016575 from NIDA.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Where appropriate, informed consent and assent were obtained from all individual participants included in this study.
The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NCRG, NIDA, or the National Institutes of Health.
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Bray, B.C., Dziak, J.J., Patrick, M.E. et al. Inverse Propensity Score Weighting with a Latent Class Exposure: Estimating the Causal Effect of Reported Reasons for Alcohol Use on Problem Alcohol Use 16 Years Later. Prev Sci 20, 394–406 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-018-0883-8
- Latent class analysis
- Causal inference
- Propensity scores
- Alcohol use
- Reasons for drinking