To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits

Todd D. Little, William A. Cunningham, Golan Shahar, Keith F. Widaman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4610 Scopus citations


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 regarding 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 investigators 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 measurement structure of constructs in SEM procedures. A number of parceling techniques are described, noting their strengths and weaknesses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-173
Number of pages23
JournalStructural Equation Modeling
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences (all)
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (all)


Dive into the research topics of 'To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this