Journal Article

A Systematic Review of Structural Equation Modelling in Social Work Research

Baorong Guo, Brian E. Perron and David F. Gillespie

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 39, issue 8, pages 1556-1574
Published in print December 2009 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
A Systematic Review of Structural Equation Modelling in Social Work Research

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Structural equation modelling (SEM) is serving an increasingly important role in developing knowledge for the social work profession. Numerous advances have made the software more user-friendly, enabling users to conduct analyses without fully understanding the underlying assumptions or the implications from their analytic decisions. Unlike other fields, there have not been any published reviews in social work research that systematically describe and critique the use of SEM. This study systematically reviewed how SEM is used in social work research and the extent to which it reflects best practices. Thirty-two articles from top-ranked social work journals published from 2001 to 2007 were examined. Of the different types of SEM, the most commonly used was confirmatory factor analysis. Strengths of the research reviewed included examining models and measures not previously tested empirically and generating new insights into old topics through the use of SEM. Weaknesses included significant model modifications without theoretical justification or substantive interpretations. Suggestions are offered for improving applications of SEM in social work research. Specifically, we encourage social work researchers to test competing models, to make model modifications only when theoretically justified, to detail the process of making modifications and to use estimation procedures appropriate to the data.

Keywords: Structural equation modelling; systematic review; social work research

Journal Article.  6164 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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