Formative and reflective models: state of the art


Although the dispute between formative models and reflective models is not exactly recent, it is still alive in current literature, largely in the context of structural equation model. There are many aspects of SEM that should be considered in deciding the right approach. This work is intended to be a brief presentation of the state of the art for SEM based on covariance matrices. I outline the different positions on five particular issues: causality, selection of observed measures, internal consistency, identifiability and measurement error.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20705948v5n3p452

Keywords: formative model; reflective models; stuctural equation models; causality; indicators


Bollen, K. (1989). Structural Equations With Latent Variables. New York, John Wiley & Sons.

Bollen K. A., Davis W. R. (2009). Causal Indicator Models: Identification, Estimation, and Testing. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 16:498–522.

Bollen, K., Lennox, R. (1991). Conventional wisdom on measurement: A structural equation perspective. Psychological Bulletin. 100, 305-314.

Borsboom, D.; Mellenbergh, G.J.; van Heerden, J. (2004). The Concept of Validity. Psychological Review, 111:4, 1061-1071.

Edwards, J. R. (2011). The Fallacy of Formative Measurement. Organizational Research Methods, 14(2): 370-388.

Edwards, J. R., Bagozzi, R. P. (2000). On the nature and direction of the relationship between constructs and measures. Psychological Methods, 5, 155-174.

Fornell, C., Bookstein, F. (1982). Two Structural Equation Models: LISREL and PLS Applied to Consumer Exit-Voice Theory. Journal of Marketing Research, 19, 440-452.

Hair, J.F., Ringle, C.M., Sarstedt, M. (2011). PLS-SEM: Indeed a silver bullet. Journal or Marketing Theory and Practice, 19:2, 139–151.

Hauser,R.M., Goldberger, A.S. (1971).The Treatment of Unobservable Variables in Path Analysis. Sociological Methodology, 3:81-117.

Maggino, F. (2009). La misurazione dei fenomeni sociali attraverso indicatori statistici. Aspetti metodologici. Working paper, Università di Firenze.

Wilcox, J. B., Howell, R. D., & Breivik, E. (2008). Questions About Formative Measurement. Journal of Business Research, 61(12), 1229-1237.

Full Text: PDF

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.