A screening tool is a standardized set of questions used to identify issues in a child that require further investigation.

Scope in Pediatrics

  • 13-20% of children in the U.S. experience a mental health disorder each year.

  • The use of standardized screening tools by pediatric providers is more effective in the identification of developmental, behavioral and psychosocial issues in children than clinical assessments alone.

  • Although poverty increases the risk for mental health conditions, studies show that the greatest increase in prevalence occurred among children living in households earning greater than 400% above the federal poverty line.

  • Universal screening reduces missed opportunities to identify children who may have mental health conditions and promotes intervention aimed at preventing some of the long-term effects of a childhood mental disorder.

Teaching Points

  • For an initial psychosocial assessment consider administering a general screening tool such as the Pediatric Symptom Checklist-17 or the Strengths and Difficulties questionnaire

  • Secondary screening tools are designed to focus on a specific set of symptoms. Examples of secondary screening tools are

    • The Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) and the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED) helps the practitioner assess for an anxiety disorder.
    • Depression scales include the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 Modified for Adolescents (PHQ9M) and the Columbia Depression Scale can be administered universally to adolescents or used in a targeted population.
    • The Ask Suicide Screening Questions (asQ) assesses patients with severe symptoms of depression.
    • The Vanderbilt rating scale assesses symptoms of attention deficit disorder as well as oppositional and anxious behaviors.


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Special Acknowledgment

The AAP gratefully acknowledges support for the Pediatric Mental Health Minute in the form of an educational grant from SOBI.