Multilevel factor analysis models are widely used in the social sciences to account for heterogeneity in mean structures. In this paper we extend previous work on multilevel models to account for general forms of heterogeneity in confirmatory factor analysis models. We specify various models of mean and covariance heterogeneity in confirmatory factor analysis and develop Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) procedures to perform Bayesian inference, model checking, and model comparison.
We test our methodology using synthetic data and data from a consumption emotion study. The results from synthetic data show that our Bayesian model perform well in recovering the true parameters and selecting the appropriate model. More importantly, the results clearly illustrate the consequences of ignoring heterogeneity. Specifically, we find that ignoring heterogeneity can lead to sign reversals of the factor covariances, inflation of factor variances and underappreciation of uncertainty in parameter estimates. The results from the emotion study show that subjects vary both in means and covariances. Thus traditional psychometric methods cannot fully capture the heterogeneity in our data.