A Systematical Review of the Use of Structural Equation Modeling in Social Work Journals
Methods: The study targeted the top 39 journals related to the field of social work provided by the 2010 Journal Citation Reports Social Science Edition. A critical inclusion criteria for the articles in the study meant that one of the authors had to have either a graduate of PhD degree in social work or be affiliated by a school or department of social work. We used SPSS 17.0 for all coded items to reflect how SEM is applied in social work research; what journals use SEM; as well as establish if the articles have improved in quality since Guo and colleagues recommendations for best practices in SEM reporting.
Results: We found that the use of SEM has indeed increased over the past few years, with 60 studies using SEM in 16 journals between February 2007 to March 2012. Descriptive statistics also showed that 45% of the articles used SEM with both measurement models and structural models while 36 % of the articles used CFA. Most articles used MPlus (22%), AMOS (14%), and LISREL (14%) for analyses. SEM. Maximum likelihood was the most frequently used (19%) method of estimation while about16% of the articles did not report their method of estimation. Only 29% of the articles modified their initial models for any reason and all articles reported model fits using multiple fit indices.
Conclusion and Implications: Both the quantity and quality of publications using SEM continues to increase in social work journals. We expect that this will continue as more social work doctoral programs offer the courses or as more students take SEM electives from other departments. However, studies did not report important information related to SEM application as suggested by Guo and colleagues such as colinearity, univariate and multivariate normality, the process of modification, competing models, and missing data analysis process. Further implications on SEM education in social work and application will be discussed.