To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits Academic Article uri icon


  • We examine the controversial practice of using parcels of items as manifest variables in structural equation modeling (SEM) procedures. After detailing arguments pro and con, we conclude that the unconsidered use of parcels is never warranted, while, at the same time, the considered use of parcels cannot be dismissed out of hand. In large part, the decision to parcel or not depends on one's philosophical stance regard- ing scientific inquiry (e.g., empiricist vs. pragmatist) and the substantive goal of a study (e.g., to understand the structure of a set of items or to examine the nature of a set of constructs). Prior to creating parcels, however, we recommend strongly that in- vestigators acquire a thorough understanding of the nature and dimensionality of the items to be parceled. With this knowledge in hand, various techniques for creating parcels can be utilized to minimize potential pitfalls and to optimize the measure- ment structure of constructs in SEM procedures. A number of parceling techniques are described, noting their strengths and weaknesses.

publication date

  • January 1, 2002