Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

A Critical Analysis of the Child and Adolescent Wellness Scale (CAWS)

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

A Critical Analysis of the Child and Adolescent Wellness Scale (CAWS)

Article excerpt

Abstract

Current practice for assessing children and adolescents rely on objectively scored deficit-based models and/or informal assessments to determine how maladaptive behaviors affect performance. Social-emotional assessment instruments are used in schools and typically provide information related to behavioral and emotional deficits, but provide little information related to a child's adaptive qualities. The Child and Adolescent Wellness Survey (CAWS) fills a gap in the psychological assessment literature. The CAWS was designed to assess strengths and competencies in school-aged children across multiple domains, each uniquely associated with healthy child outcomes. These domains include: adaptability, connectedness, conscientiousness, emotional self-regulation, empathy, initiative, mindfulness, optimism, self-efficacy, and social competence. Based upon a set of theoretical foundations including positive psychology, resilience research, and prevention science, the CAWS poses potential as a valuable assessment resource for psychologists and educators who strive to foster resilience and social-emotional competence in children.

Introduction

The Child and Adolescent Wellness Scale (CAWS) is a new measure of childhood psychological health. The CAWS was developed by Ellis P. Copeland and R. Brett Nelson (2002). The instrument is rooted in the philosophy of the positive psychology movement (Seligman, 2000). Within this movement, focus is given to descriptions of characteristics of children and their environments associated with well-being. The traditional approaches related to assessing strengths and competencies have included the use of self-concept scales and informal assessment measures. In contrast, the CAWS is not a tool designed to focus on the assessment of deficits among adolescents. It was designed as a support instrument for psychologists and educators to use to foster resilience and predict and enhance healthy outcomes among adolescents. Professionals are beginning to realize that the removal and control of problematic situations do not automatically result in optimal and/or continued health. Pittman (2003) reported that in which the goal is to cultivate the positive development of individuals and communities. That shift is most apparent in the newly created area of scholarly activity referred to as positive psychology. However, even with this aim toward creating optimal cognitive, social, and cultural conditions, few measures have been developed to assess the positive attributes displayed in children (Lopez and Snyder, 2003). The CAWS embraces this paradigm shift and reflects the philosophy of positive psychology. The scale was crafted to assess, identify, and amplify the strengths and capacities that adolescents need to thrive.

This paper begins with a brief review of the theoretical origins of the CAWS. Following each theoretical description is a critical analysis of the rationale regarding applications of the CAWS. A brief description and critical review of each CAWS domain (adaptability, connectedness, conscientiousness, emotional self-regulation, empathy, initiative, mindfulness, optimism, self-efficacy, and social competence; see Appendix) and its utility related to the measurement of the wellness construct is presented. The final section of the paper includes a discussion of evidence-based findings related to the instrument, a set of conclusions, and suggestions for future research.

Conceptual Foundations

The CAWS (Copeland & Nelson, 2002) is anchored within three theoretical frameworks (positive psychology, resilience research, and prevention science). Initially based on all three frameworks, the authors of the CAWS have most recently embraced the positive psychology perspective (Copeland, 2006).

Positive Psychology. Almost a decade ago, the President of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman (1998) had a vision. Seligman's vision was to urge the social sciences to look beyond human weaknesses and propose a mission related to the scientific study of human strength, resilience, and optimal human functioning. …

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