TitleComputerized adaptive testing to screen children for emotional and behavioral problems by preventive child healthcare
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsTheunissen, MHC, de Wolff, MS, Deurloo, JA, Vogels, AGC
JournalBMC Pediatrics
IssueArticle number: 119


Questionnaires to detect emotional and behavioral problems (EBP) in Preventive Child Healthcare (PCH) should be short which potentially affects validity and reliability. Simulation studies have shown that Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) could overcome these weaknesses. We studied the applicability (using the measures participation rate, satisfaction, and efficiency) and the validity of CAT in routine PCH practice.


We analyzed data on 461 children aged 10–11 years (response 41%), who were assessed during routine well-child examinations by PCH professionals. Before the visit, parents completed the CAT and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Satisfaction was measured by parent- and PCH professional-report. Efficiency of the CAT procedure was measured as number of items needed to assess whether a child has serious problems or not. Its validity was assessed using the CBCL as the criterion.


Parents and PCH professionals rated the CAT on average as good. The procedure required at average 16 items to assess whether a child has serious problems or not. Agreement of scores on the CAT scales with corresponding CBCL scales was high (range of Spearman correlations 0.59–0.72). Area Under Curves (AUC) were high (range: 0.95–0.97) for the Psycat total, externalizing, and hyperactivity scales using corresponding CBCL scale scores as criterion. For the Psycat internalizing scale the AUC was somewhat lower but still high (0.86).


CAT is a valid procedure for the identification of emotional and behavioral problems in children aged 10–11 years. It may support the efficient and accurate identification of children with overall, and potentially also specific, emotional and behavioral problems in routine PCH.