Directed acyclic graphs are commonly used to represent causal relationships among random variables in graphical models. Applications of these models arise in the study of physical and biological systems where directed edges between nodes represent the influence of components of the system on each other. Estimation of directed graphs from observational data is computationally NP-hard. In addition, directed graphs with the same structure may be indistinguishable based on observations alone. When the nodes exhibit a natural ordering, the problem of estimating directed graphs reduces to the problem of estimating the structure of the network. In this paper, we propose an efficient penalized likelihood method for estimation of the adjacency matrix of directed acyclic graphs, when variables inherit a natural ordering. We study variable selection consistency of lasso and adaptive lasso penalties in high-dimensional sparse settings, and propose an error-based choice for selecting the tuning parameter. We show that although the lasso is only variable selection consistent under stringent conditions, the adaptive lasso can consistently estimate the true graph under the usual regularity assumptions.

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