Can a Mediator Moderate? Considering the Role of Time and Change in the Mediator-Moderator Distinction


The concepts of mediation and moderation are important for specifying ways in which psychological treatments work and for whom they are most beneficial. Historically, the terms were confused and used interchangeably, so a rich body of scholarly literature makes clear their distinction. Researchers are also becoming increasingly aware that mediation and moderation can be integrated and that such integration can advance theory development and testing. One question that has not received sufficient attention is whether a mediator can simultaneously moderate. We tackle this question in this paper, and in doing so we expand on the MacArthur conceptualizations of mediation and moderation. The result is a presentation of a meta-theoretical model that illustrates how a construct that is initially a mediator can, not simultaneously but over time, evolve into a construct that moderates. When this occurs, a construct that changed for the better as a result of an intervention can later promote more positive change during a later intervention. Various implications of this novel paradigm for future research are discussed, including the importance of this model in the emerging context of managed health care.

Publication Title

Behavior Therapy