A New Bayesian Structural Equation Modeling Approach with Priors on the Covariance Matrix Parameter


  • Haiyan Liu * University of California
  • Wen Qu
  • Zhiyong Zhang
  • Hao Wu




Structural equation modeling, Bayesian analysis, Inverse Wishart prior, Informative prior, Convergence diagnostics


Bayesian inference for structural equation models (SEMs) is increasingly popular in social and psychological sciences owing to its flexibility to adapt to more complex models and the ability to include prior information if available. However, there are two major hurdles in using the traditional Bayesian SEM in practice: (1) the information nested in the prior distributions is hard to control, and (2) the MCMC iterative procedures naturally lead to Markov chains with serial dependence and the diagnostics of their convergence are often difficult. In this study, we present an alternative procedure for Bayesian SEM aiming to address the two challenges. In the new Bayesian SEM procedure, we specify a prior distribution on the population covariance matrix parameter $\mathbf{\Sigma}$ and obtain its posterior distribution $p(\mathbf{\Sigma}|\text{data})$. We then construct a posterior distribution of model parameters $\boldsymbol{\theta}$ in the hypothetical SEM model by transforming the posterior distribution of $\mathbf{\Sigma}$ to a distribution of model parameter $\boldsymbol{\theta}$. The new procedure eases the practice of Bayesian SEM significantly and has a better control over the information nested in the prior distribution. We evaluated its performance through a simulation study and demonstrate its application through an empirical example.

Author Biography

Haiyan Liu, University of California

Dr. Haiyan Liu is currently an assistant professor of Quantitative Methods, Measurement, and Statistics at the University of California, Merced. She earned her Ph.D. degree from the University of Notre Dame in 2018.

Dr. Liu’s research centers broadly on statistical modeling of psychological and behavioral data such as high-dimensional data, longitudinal data, and categorical data. Her recent research includes social network modeling, Bayesian structural equation modeling, and non-parametric modeling of growth curves.




How to Cite

Liu, H. ., Qu, W., Zhang, Z., & Wu, H. (2022). A New Bayesian Structural Equation Modeling Approach with Priors on the Covariance Matrix Parameter. Journal of Behavioral Data Science, 2(2), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.35566/jbds/v2n2/p2



Theory and Methods

Funding data