Exploratory Bifactor Analysis: The Schmid-Leiman Orthogonalization and Jennrich-Bentler Analytic Rotations

Maxwell Mansolf, Steven P. Reise*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Analytic bifactor rotations have been recently developed and made generally available, but they are not well understood. The Jennrich-Bentler analytic bifactor rotations (bi-quartimin and bi-geomin) are an alternative to, and arguably an improvement upon, the less technically sophisticated Schmid-Leiman orthogonalization. We review the technical details that underlie the Schmid-Leiman and Jennrich-Bentler bifactor rotations, using simulated data structures to illustrate important features and limitations. For the Schmid-Leiman, we review the problem of inaccurate parameter estimates caused by the linear dependencies, sometimes called “proportionality constraints,” that are required to expand a p correlated factors solution into a (p + 1) (bi)factor space. We also review the complexities involved when the data depart from perfect cluster structure (e.g., item cross-loading on group factors). For the Jennrich-Bentler rotations, we describe problems in parameter estimation caused by departures from perfect cluster structure. In addition, we illustrate the related problems of (a) solutions that are not invariant under different starting values (i.e., local minima problems) and (b) group factors collapsing onto the general factor. Recommendations are made for substantive researchers including examining all local minima and applying multiple exploratory techniques in an effort to identify an accurate model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)698-717
Number of pages20
JournalMultivariate Behavioral Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Exploratory bifactor
  • Schmid-Leiman
  • local minima

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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