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Mental Health Screening in Young Children

Bricker, Diane PhD; Davis, Maura Schoen PhD; Squires, Jane PhD


The numbers of young children who display mental health problems are on the rise. Recent surveys suggest that anywhere from 10% to 25% of young children may have mild to serious social-emotional disorders. In populations of children with disabilities and children at risk the probability of having significant mental health problems is even greater. Accumulating evidence suggests that when left untreated, mental health problems in very young children can grow in severity and require costly, long-term intervention that may or may not be successful. Evidence also suggests that a more effective and less costly approach is prevention and early identification and intervention. The development and establishment of prevention and early identification strategies has been inhibited by a number of serious barriers. However, the advent of family friendly first-level screening measures now permits the establishment of effective and economical early screening programs. Early screening programs are enhanced if they are linked directly to other critical services such as eligibility determination, intervention, and evaluation.

From the Early Intervention Program, College of Education, University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore (Bricker, Squires)

The Early Childhood Program, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Asheville, NC. (Davis)

Parts of this manuscript were taken from a keynote presentation by Dr Diane Bricker at the Early Intervention Conference in Hamilton, New Zealand, November 2001, and from A Comparison of Three Social Emotional Screening Instruments, an unpublished doctoral dissertation by Maura Schoen Davis.

Corresponding author: Jane Squires, PhD, College of Education, 5253 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403 (e-mail:

©2004Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.