Phillip W. Vaughan
Path analysis is a statistical technique that is used to examine and test purported causal relationships among a set of variables. A causal relationship is directional in character, and occurs when one variable (e.g., amount of exercise) causes changes in another variable (e.g., physical fitness). The researcher specifies these relationships according to a theoretical model that is of interest to the researcher. The resulting path model and the results of the path analysis are usually then presented together in the form of a path diagram. Although a path analysis makes causal inferences about how variables are related, correlational data are actually used to conduct the path analysis. In many instances, the results of the analysis provide information about the plausibility of the researcher's hypothesized model. But even if this information is not available, the path analysis provides estimates of the relative strengths of the causal effects and other associations among ...