Growth curves for headache research: A multilevel modeling perspective


McGinley, James S.; Wirth, R. J.; & Houts, Carrie R. (2019). Growth curves for headache research: A multilevel modeling perspective. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. vol. 59 (7) pp. 1063-1073


Objective To introduce growth curve modeling for longitudinal headache research. Background Longitudinal data play an important role in the study of headache-related outcomes by allowing researchers to test hypotheses about change over time. However, headache researchers are often unfamiliar with the flexibility and power that growth curves can offer in analyzing longitudinal data. The goals of this paper are to introduce growth curve models within the multilevel modeling framework for analyzing longitudinal headache-related data and to show how these models can be applied in practice. Methods Longitudinal data for the empirical example came from publicly available data from Wave I to Wave IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. In total, 5608 individuals were included in the study and multilevel models were fit to examine, for individuals with and without adolescent migraine, longitudinal changes in depression from age 13 to 27 years old. Results Findings showed that individuals varied in their longitudinal depression trajectories. A cubic time trend best approximated the data with depression increasing through adolescence, decreasing during young adulthood, and then beginning to increase again in adulthood. Further, results also indicated that individuals with adolescent migraine had higher levels of depression throughout the age span compared those without adolescent migraine, but the shape of change did not differ across the groups. Conclusion Growth curve models offer a flexible alternative to traditional statistical methods and can rigorously evaluate a wide array of headache-related hypotheses.




Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain


McGinley, James S.
Wirth, R. J.
Houts, Carrie R.

Year Published


Volume Number


Issue Number





April 30, 2019



Reference ID