Rao's polynomial growth curve model for unequal-time intervals: a menu-driven GAUSS program.
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For lack of alternatives, longitudinal data are often analyzed with cross-sectional statistical methods, for instance, t-tests, ANOVA and ordinary least-squares regression. Appropriate statistical software has been generally unavailable to investigators using serial records to study growth and development or treatment effects. In an earlier paper (Schneiderman and Kowalski, Am. J. Phys. Anthropol., 67 (1985) 323-333.) we described a suitable method, Rao's polynomial growth curve model (Rao, Biometrika, 46 (1959) 49-58), and provided an SAS computer program for the analysis of a single sample of complete longitudinal data. This method included the computation of an average polynomial growth curve, its 95% confidence band, its coefficients and corresponding confidence intervals. The present paper extends this method to accommodate a sample with observations made at unequal time-intervals. Significant improvements in the accessibility, operation and user-friendliness of the program have been made, facilitated by recent advances in microcomputer technology. This stand-alone GAUSS program (no compiler necessary) runs on PC-compatibles and is available at a nominal cost. In this report we provide an overview of the statistical model, the general structure of the program, and give an example in which a developmental variable (human upper incisor angulation) is analyzed. Ease of installation and use, speed of execution and color graphic displays of growth curves and confidence bands, and most importantly, suitability to longitudinal data, make this method/program a potentially valuable tool for those interested in growth, development, and treatment effects in humans and other species. Some areas in which this method will have immediate applications are orthodontics, maxillofacial surgery and pediatrics.