Promoting the early identification of internalizing problems in preliterate children: Development of the Watkins Early Self -Report of Internalizing Problems
A variety of academic, behavioral and social problems are first identified when children begin school as schools have an obligation to identify a child's needs. However, internalizing problems such as anxiety and depression often go unnoticed due to their covert and subjective symptoms. Not readily apparent to observers, internalizing problems may be best identified through self-report. However, without an instrument to identify internalizing problems, children may suffer silently.
Due to developmental limitations of young children to self-report options are limited to individual interviews, which are impractical for screening large groups of children. Thus, the purpose of this study was to develop an instrument that could enable children in Kindergarten and first grade to self-report their experiences of internalizing problems, in a wide-scale screening procedure. The Watkins Early Self-Report of Internalizing Problems (WESRIP) was created using pictures and oral administration to enable children to independently self-report their symptoms of internalizing problems, thus allowing large groups of children to be screened simultaneously.
Kindergarten and first grade children (n = 235) consented to the study. Three forms of the WESRIP containing separate test items were administered to groups of students. The 26 items with the highest item-total correlations were chosen for the revised WESRIP that was administered in a pre-test (n = 207) and post-test (n = 197). Teachers completed a modified version of the Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders (SSBD) for concurrent validity analysis.
The WESRIP was found to have adequate internal consistency for screening decisions, and moderate test-retest reliability for this age group. Through factor analysis, two distinct factors were identified, "Physical and Emotional Manifestations of Internalizing Problems," and "Self-Appraisal." However there was no relationship between the self-report and teacher rankings, limiting concurrent validity. Without a comparable criterion instrument, diagnostic accuracy was not feasible.
Further research is still needed in order to make the WESRIP a technically sound and useful tool. The WESRIP may one day serve to validly and reliably screen children who could benefit from further assessment and ultimately benefit children through early identification of internalizing problems and improved outcomes.