• Binary data;
  • Markov processes;
  • Serial correlation;
  • Unequally spaced data;
  • Maximum likelihood


Longitudinal data usually consist of a number of short time series. A group of subjects or groups of subjects are followed over time and observations are often taken at unequally spaced time points, and may be at different times for different subjects. When the errors and random effects are Gaussian, the likelihood of these unbalanced linear mixed models can be directly calculated, and nonlinear optimization used to obtain maximum likelihood estimates of the fixed regression coefficients and parameters in the variance components. For binary longitudinal data, a two state, non-homogeneous continuous time Markov process approach is used to model serial correlation within subjects. Formulating the model as a continuous time Markov process allows the observations to be equally or unequally spaced. Fixed and time varying covariates can be included in the model, and the continuous time model allows the estimation of the odds ratio for an exposure variable based on the steady state distribution. Exact likelihoods can be calculated. The initial probability distribution on the first observation on each subject is estimated using logistic regression that can involve covariates, and this estimation is embedded in the overall estimation. These models are applied to an intervention study designed to reduce children's sun exposure. (© 2006 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)