Screening of behavior problems in young children from low-income families: The development of a new assessment tool

Casey A Holtz, Marquette University


Behavior problems are prevalent in young children and can have detrimental effects on the child and their family. These early challenging behaviors are even more common in children from low-income, urban settings. Significantly, challenging behavior with onset during preschool years may be a precursor to later, more severe behaviors including violence, aggression, and anti-social behaviors. While effective treatments have been developed to treat these behavior problems of early childhood, the challenge remains to identify children with clinical behavior problems early so treatment can begin when necessary. The purpose of this study was to construct a new parent-report screening tool, the Early Childhood Behavior Screen (ECBS), for caregivers of young children (0-5 years old) from low-income backgrounds. This study describes two initial phases of measure development including item retention and assessment of initial psychometric properties. Data from a representative and diverse sample of 439 parents of children from a low-income urban community were analyzed to identify the items most useful for screening of early behavior problems with children from low-income backgrounds. These analyses determined which items most effectively discriminated between children with different behavioral profiles (e.g., high or low levels of behavior problems) and which items were accurate predictors of the clinical cutoff score on the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI), resulting in the retention of 22 of the initial 43 items. The revised 22-item scale was written at 3.9 grade reading level. Psychometric properties of the revised ECBS revealed the items loaded on two factors, the Challenging Behavior factor and the Prosocial Behavior factor. Each factor demonstrated high levels of internal consistency (.85 and .92, respectively). The Challenging Behavior factor demonstrated adequate levels of concurrent validity (r = .75), sensitivity (93%), and specificity (73%) based on its relationship with the ECBI. The Prosocial Behavior factor is a unique aspect of the ECBS as it allows practitioners to identify the child's behavioral competencies and strengths. The results suggest the ECBS has potential as a brief screening tool useful in pediatric, psychological, and educational settings that serve low-income populations to aid in the identification of young children with challenging behaviors.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology,Quantitative psychology

Recommended Citation

Holtz, Casey A, "Screening of behavior problems in young children from low-income families: The development of a new assessment tool" (2009). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3375129.