Growth curve analysis refers to the procedures for describing change of an attribute over time and testing related hypotheses. Population growth curve traditionally consists of a graphical display of physical growth (e.g., height and weight) and is typically used by pediatricians to determine whether a specific child seems to be developing as expected. As a research method, the growth curve is particularly useful to analyze and understand longitudinal data. It allows researchers to describe processes that unfold gradually over time for each individual, as well as the differences across individuals, and to systematically relate these differences [Page 555]against theoretically important time-invariant and time-varying covariates. This entry discusses the use of growth curves in research and two approaches for studying growth curves.
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