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Epidemiology:
doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e318281a64e
Methods

A Three-way Decomposition of a Total Effect into Direct, Indirect, and Interactive Effects

VanderWeele, Tyler J.

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Abstract

Recent theory in causal inference has provided concepts for mediation analysis and effect decomposition that allow one to decompose a total effect into a direct and an indirect effect. Here, it is shown that what is often taken as an indirect effect can in fact be further decomposed into a “pure” indirect effect and a mediated interactive effect, thus yielding a three-way decomposition of a total effect (direct, indirect, and interactive). This three-way decomposition applies to difference scales and also to additive ratio scales and additive hazard scales. Assumptions needed for the identification of each of these three effects are discussed and simple formulae are given for each when regression models allowing for interaction are used. The three-way decomposition is illustrated by examples from genetic and perinatal epidemiology, and discussion is given to what is gained over the traditional two-way decomposition into a direct and an indirect effect.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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