Measuring and Reporting Social-Emotional Development in Early Childhood

This suite of resources reviews 72 measures of early childhood (ages zero to 5) social and emotional development, and provides recommendations for federal measurement and reporting. Child Trends identified and organized the measures review around four subdomains of social and emotional development: social competence, emotional competence, behavior problems, and self-regulation. In addition, we investigated executive function as a key area of development underlying social and emotional skills.

Findings focus on suitability of these measures for use or adaptation in national data collections. Specific characteristics featured in the findings include length of the measures, target child age, and reliability and validity of the measures. Sponsored by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child & Family Statistics, this work is the culmination of a thorough measures review, conceptual framework development, consultation with researchers and federal survey developers, and a convening in May 2013 of over 70 stakeholders concerned with measuring this domain of development.

Project deliverables


Project Summary: Measuring and Reporting Social-Emotional Development in Early Childhood

This paper reviews the stages of the Early Childhood Indicators Project performed by Child Trends for the Federal Interagency Forum on Child & Family Statistics from 2012-15. Work included a review of existing measures of social and emotional development to evaluate their quality and utility for America’s Children and future data collections, with a focus on federal constraints in data collection such as respondent burden, time, cost, and policy implications. Child Trends also organized a convening of experts and stakeholders, consulted with federal agency partners and academic researchers, and prepared a detailed inventory of measures and a paper providing recommendations.


Characteristics of Existing Measures of Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood

This paper summarizes the findings from the review of 72 existing measures of early childhood social and emotional development, organized around three potential federal reporting options – regular indicators, special feature in the America’s Children report, or options for new data collection. The paper discusses 28 (out of the 72) measures identified as promising or strong (focusing on those that are short and thus most useful to federal agencies) and splits out recommendations for children ages zero to 3 and 4 to 5, thus easily identifying measures appropriate for use in assessing school readiness.


Inventory of Measures of Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood

The inventory spreadsheet (Excel; PDF) presents descriptive information on key characteristics of 72 existing measures of early childhood social and emotional development in a detailed, tabular format. Details include: citations, age range served by the measure, subscales and subdomains covered by the measure, number of items, time needed for administration, sample items, language options, respondent types, copyright information, details on reliability, validity, and norming sample, and previous use by federal data collections.


May 2013 Culminating Activity Summary Documents

May 2013 Measuring EC SED—Key Points by Session:

Follow Up Steps to May 2013 Measuring EC SED

These short papers summarize discussions from a Year 1 culminating activity held at the NIH Natcher Conference Center – “Measuring and Reporting Social-Emotional Development in Early Childhood” – on May 8, 2013. Key Points from Forum Culminating Activity, by Session provides a detailed summary of the proceedings, organized by session. Follow Up Steps to “Measuring and Reporting Social-Emotional Development in Early Childhood” summarizes four guiding principles agreed upon by participants, as well as short- and long-term priorities to help fulfill the goal of measuring early childhood social and emotional development in federal data collections.


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