Social-emotional screening for infants and toddlers in primary care

Pediatrics. 2012 Feb;129(2):e377-84. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-2211. Epub 2012 Jan 9.


Background and objectives: Recommendations in pediatrics call for general developmental screening of young children; however, research suggests social-emotional development, in particular, is important as an initial indicator of general well-being versus risk. We aim to describe a program designed to identify the social-emotional status of young children in the pediatric setting by using the Ages and Stages Questionnaires: Social-Emotional (ASQ:SE) as a universal screening tool, and to assess the effect of interventions by a colocated psychologist on changes in ASQ:SE scores over time.

Methods: In a prospective cohort design we analyzed scores on ASQ:SE surveys completed on children 6 to 36 months of age, to determine if children were at risk for problems in social-emotional development. The probability of remaining at risk over time was then compared between subjects receiving intervention by the psychologist, and those who declined intervention. Logit specifications were used in multivariate comparisons to control for a set of covariates.

Results: Three thousand one hundred and sixty-nine children were screened; 711 (22.4%) scored at or above the risk cutoff. Among the 711 at-risk children, 170 were rescreened. At the time of rescreening, those children who received intervention from the psychologist showed significant improvement on ASQ:SE scores compared with those who declined intervention (P = .01).

Conclusions: Universal social-emotional screening in a busy pediatric practice is challenging. Significant percentages of children can be identified as being at risk for social-emotional problems, and colocation of a psychologist promotes the ability to effectively address young children's social-emotional development within their medical home.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • New York City
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population*