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Propensity score estimation with random forests

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Random Forests is a statistical learning method which has been proposed for propensity score estimation models that involve complex interactions, nonlinear relationships, or both of the covariates. In this dissertation I conducted a simulation study to examine the effects of

Random Forests is a statistical learning method which has been proposed for propensity score estimation models that involve complex interactions, nonlinear relationships, or both of the covariates. In this dissertation I conducted a simulation study to examine the effects of three Random Forests model specifications in propensity score analysis. The results suggested that, depending on the nature of data, optimal specification of (1) decision rules to select the covariate and its split value in a Classification Tree, (2) the number of covariates randomly sampled for selection, and (3) methods of estimating Random Forests propensity scores could potentially produce an unbiased average treatment effect estimate after propensity scores weighting by the odds adjustment. Compared to the logistic regression estimation model using the true propensity score model, Random Forests had an additional advantage in producing unbiased estimated standard error and correct statistical inference of the average treatment effect. The relationship between the balance on the covariates' means and the bias of average treatment effect estimate was examined both within and between conditions of the simulation. Within conditions, across repeated samples there was no noticeable correlation between the covariates' mean differences and the magnitude of bias of average treatment effect estimate for the covariates that were imbalanced before adjustment. Between conditions, small mean differences of covariates after propensity score adjustment were not sensitive enough to identify the optimal Random Forests model specification for propensity score analysis.

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Date Created
2013

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A multi-method examination of mother-infant synchrony as a predictor of social and emotional problems

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The parent-child relationship is one of the earliest and most formative experiences for social and emotional development. Synchrony, defined as the rhythmic patterning and quality of mutual affect, engagement, and physiological attunement, has been identified as a critical quality of

The parent-child relationship is one of the earliest and most formative experiences for social and emotional development. Synchrony, defined as the rhythmic patterning and quality of mutual affect, engagement, and physiological attunement, has been identified as a critical quality of a healthy mother-infant relationship. Although the salience of the quality of family interaction has been well-established, clinical and developmental research has varied widely in methods for observing and identifying influential aspects of synchrony. In addition, modern dynamic perspectives presume multiple factors converge in a complex system influenced by both nature and nurture, in which individual traits, behavior, and environment are inextricably intertwined within the system of dyadic relational units.

The present study aimed to directly examine and compare synchrony from three distinct approaches: observed microanalytic behavioral sequences, observed global dyadic qualities, and physiological attunement between mothers and infants. The sample consisted of 323 Mexican American mothers and their infants followed from the third trimester of pregnancy through the first year of life. Mothers were interviewed prenatally, observed at a home visit at 12 weeks postpartum, and were finally interviewed for child social-emotional problems at child age 12 months. Specific aspects of synchrony (microanalytical, global, and physiological) were examined separately as well as together to identify comparable and divergent qualities within the construct.

Findings indicated that multiple perspectives on synchrony are best examined together, but as independent qualities to account for varying characteristics captured by divergent systems. Dyadic relationships characterized by higher reciprocity, more time and flexibility in mutual non-negative engagement, and less tendency to enter negative or unengaged states were associated with fewer child social-emotional problems at child age 12 months. Lower infant cortisol was associated with higher levels of externalizing problems, and smaller differences between mother and child cortisol were associated with higher levels of child dysregulation. Results underscore the complex but important nature of synchrony as a salient mechanism underlying the social-emotional growth of children. A mutually engaged, non-negative, and reciprocal environment lays the foundation for the successful social and self-regulatory competence of infants in the first year of life.

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Date Created
2015