Psychometric Analyses of the Positive Behavior Scale in the New Hope Project and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics

Indicators of Positive Development Conference
March 12-13, 2003
Bureau of Labor Statistics Conference Center
Washington, DC


Sylvia Epps, Seoung Park, Aletha Huston, and Marika Ripke, University of Texas at Austin

Positive social behavior is not simply the absence of problem behavior. In this chapter, we define positive social behavior as social competence with peers and adults, compliance to rules and adult direction, and autonomy or self-reliance. We argue that positive social behaviors represent important skills for dealing with both peers and adults.

We begin with presenting a detailed analysis of the psychometric properties of the Positive Behavior Scale using data from two studies. First, we draw on an evaluation of the New Hope Project, in which children in low-income families were evaluated on two occasions separated by three years. Second, we report analyses from a nationally representative sample of children studied in the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Both samples include children from African American, Hispanic, and European American ethnic groups.

We report internal consistency, correlations among subscales, correlations among raters, and stability over time. We also examine construct validity by considering the correlations with related measures. Finally, we report average scores in the two samples by child gender, child age, ethnic group, parent education, and family income.

On the whole, the scale is highly reliable. The correlations among the subscales suggest considerable overlap in the characteristics measured, but there is some evidence that the subscales represent distinct aspects of social behavior. Parent and teacher reports also indicate stability over a three-year time period. There are, however, weak correlations between parents’ and teachers’ ratings.

There is modest evidence for construct validity. On average, girls were rated higher than boys on the positive behavior scales, particularly on compliance to adults. There were minimal differences between age groups. In most comparisons, Hispanic children were rated highest and White Non-Hispanic children were rated lowest, with African American children falling somewhere in between. There were inconsistent differences associated with parent education and income.

Overall, the Positive Behavior Scale is a reliable measure of children’s social competence, compliance, and autonomy in home and school settings. The evidence from this scale and other similar measures strongly suggests that social behavior and skills are specific to particular environments and settings, suggesting that information should be collected from multiple settings and reporters in order to gain a full understanding of the child’s social competence. In conclusion, we recommend that this scale be used to assess positive behavior.