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The Brief Early Childhood Screening Assessment

Preliminary Validity in Pediatric Primary Care

Fallucco, Elise M. MD; Wysocki, Tim PhD, ABPP; James, Lauren MA; Kozikowski, Chelsea BA; Williams, Andre PhD; Gleason, Mary M. MD, FAPP

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: February/March 2017 - Volume 38 - Issue 2 - p 89–98
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000384
Original Articles
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Objective: Brief, well-validated instruments are needed to facilitate screening for early childhood behavioral and emotional problems (BEPs). The objectives of this study were to empirically reduce the length of the Early Childhood Screening Assessment (ECSA) and to assess the validity and reliability of this shorter tool.

Methods: Using caregiver ECSA responses for 2467 children aged 36 to 60 months seen in primary care, individual ECSA items were ranked on a scale ranging from “absolutely retain” to “absolutely delete.” Items were deleted sequentially beginning with “absolutely delete” and going up the item prioritization list, resulting in 35 shorter versions of the ECSA. A separate primary care sample (n = 69) of mothers of children aged 18 to 60 months was used to determine the sensitivity and specificity of each shorter ECSA version using psychiatric diagnosis on the Diagnostic Infant and Preschool Assessment as the gold standard. The version with the optimal balance of sensitivity, specificity, and length was selected as the Brief ECSA. Associations between Brief ECSA scores and other pertinent measures were evaluated to estimate reliability and validity.

Results: A 22-item measure reflected the best combination of brevity, sensitivity and specificity. A cutoff score of 9 or higher on the 22-item Brief ECSA demonstrated acceptable sensitivity (89%) and specificity (85%) for predicting a psychiatric diagnosis. Brief ECSA scores correlated significantly and in expected directions with scores on pertinent measures and with demographic variables.

Conclusion: The results indicate that the Brief ECSA has sound psychometric properties for identifying young children with BEPs in primary care.

*Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida College of Medicine, Jacksonville, FL;

Nemours Center for Health Care Delivery Science, Jacksonville, FL;

Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,

§Pediatrics, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA.

Address for reprints: Elise M. Fallucco, MD, 580 West 8th St, Tower II, 6th Floor, Jacksonville, FL 32209; e-mail:

This study was funded by the Nemours Foundation (PI: E.M.F.) and by a grant awarded to the principal investigator (E.M.F.) through Managed Access to Child Health, a grantee of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) Grant, # 5U79SM059939-04.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

The sponsoring agencies had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, or interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; or decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

See the video abstract from the authors at

Received August , 2016

Accepted November , 2016

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