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Infant Ment Health J. 2010 May;31(3):335-357. doi: 10.1002/imhj.20259.

Recognizing young children in need of mental health assessment: Development and preliminary validity of the early childhood screening assessment.

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Tulane University Health Sciences Center.
Brown University Medical School.


The Early Childhood Screening Assessment (ECSA) is a primary care screening measure developed to identify very young children (1½-5 years old) who need further emotional or behavioral assessment. The ECSA was developed specifically to meet the logistical constraints of primary care settings. This study assessed the preliminary psychometric properties of the ECSA by comparing it with extant validated measures of young children's emotional and behavioral development, comparing it with a diagnostic interview, and measuring test-retest reliability. In the study, 309 mothers in two primary care clinics completed the ECSA and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL; T. Achenbach & L. Rescorla, 2000). A subset (n = 69) also completed the Diagnostic Interview for the Preschool Age (DIPA; M. Scheeringa & N. Haslett, 2010). ECSA score correlated significantly and strongly with the CBCL Total Problem T score (Spearman's rho = 0.86, p ⩽ .01). The ECSA was 86% sensitive and 83% specific in identifying DIPA diagnoses. Internal consistency of the ECSA was 0.91. Test-retest reliability at 10 days was excellent (Spearman's rho = 0.81, p ⩽ .01). The ECSA is an easy-to-use screening measure that demonstrates strong convergent validity, criterion validity, and test-retest reliability in the pediatric setting. It shows potential as a feasible and psychometrically strong tool for busy primary care providers to identify preschoolers who need further socioemotional assessment.


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