Mental Health Problems in Young Children: Self-Reports and Significant Others as Informants

By Ederer, Elfriede M. | Psychology Science, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Mental Health Problems in Young Children: Self-Reports and Significant Others as Informants


Ederer, Elfriede M., Psychology Science


Summary

Although children may be the best source of information regarding their feelings and self-perceptions, there are severe limitations to self-report measures especially for young children. Therefore, it is advisable to complement the self-reports by information by parents and teachers. This research aims at the connection between the self-reports of children on different mental health measures including aspects of social integration and the reports of parents and teachers on mental health symptoms of children using the same or similar measures. In this context it is also investigated whether the use of recently developed pictorial self-report questionnaires effects the correspondence between the self-reports of children and the reports of parents and teachers. The following measures were administered to a sample of young school children and a sample of preschool children, their parents and/or their teachers: Pre-school Symptom Self-Report (PRESS) (Martini), TONI (Valla), Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance for Young Children (Harter & Pike) in its German version by Asendorpf & van Aken, all three cartoon-like questionnaires of mental health aspects; Depression Test for Children (DTK) (Rossmann); and the Children's Depression Scale for Classrooms (CDRSC) (Morris) for teachers. Although children as well as adults score consistently on different measures, there are almost no connections between the ratings of children and those of adults with regard to mental health. The results will be attributed to "informant variability". Implications for therapeutic approaches will be discussed.

Key words: Mental health in young children, self-, parent- and teacher-reports, pictorial tests

Introduction

The research done at the Institute of Education at the University of Graz during the last years addressed a variety of topics connected with a developmental perspective on mental health in children and juveniles. This research objective was not only motivated by the association between emotional problems and further much impairment of psychological functioning of children (see among others Angold & Costello, 1993; Biedermann, Ncwcorn & Sprich, 1991), but also by the high recurrence risk with strong continuity into adulthood (see among others Asarnow, Goldstein, Carlson, Perdue, Bates, & Keller 1988; Harrington, Fudge, Rutter, Pickles & Hills, 1990; Hofmann, 1991).

An important part of our work concentrated on diagnostic aspects of emotional and behavioural disorders in children and juveniles (see among others Buchmann, 2000; Buchmann & Ederer, 1999, 2001; Ederer, 1996a, 1996b, 1998a, 1998b, 1998c, 1999a, 1999b, 1999c, 2000a, 2000b, 2000c; Ederer, Rossmann & Schein, 2001; Ederer & Royer, 1997a, 2000a, 2000b; Ederer & Reicher, 1997; Fuchs, Hanfstingl & Reicher, 1999; Reicher, Fuchs & Hanfstingl, 2001; Rossmann, 1993; Rossmann & Pichler-Janisch, 1998; Rossmann & Schein, 1993; Royer, 1998; Royer & Ederer, 1999, 2001; Schein, 1995; Schinnerl, 2001). Although children may be the best source of information regarding their feelings and self-perceptions, there are severe limitations to self-report measures especially for young children. Therefore, it seems advisable to complement such data by information from the social environment, especially from parents and teachers (see among others Blöschl, 1998; Clarizio, 1994; Ederer, 1997, 1998d; Ederer & Royer, 1997a; Kazdin, 1994; Reicher, 1998).

A recent development to assess the mental health of children is the use of pictures combined with verbal questions to facilitate the communication with children, overcoming the sociocognitivc immaturity and the lack of reading ability of young children (see among others Asendorpf & van Aken, 1993; Harter & Pike, 1981, 1984; Martini, 1987; Martini, Strayhorn & Puig-Antich, 1990; Valla, Bergeron, Beruhe, Gaudet & St. …

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