Screening Tests for Young Children: A Review of Evidence-Based Practices

Screening tests are an important tool for the early detection and diagnosis of childhood developmental and behavioral problems. Screening tests are used in the pediatric healthcare setting to identify potential problems and to provide guidance for early intervention. This review aims to provide evidence-based guidance for the use of screening tests to identify health and developmental issues in young children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children receive routine health supervision visits with a healthcare provider. This includes developmental and behavioral screenings at least once at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 or 30 months. Screening tests are used to evaluate children for potential delays in language, motor skills, social-emotional functioning, and cognition. Screening tests can also be used to detect vision and hearing problems, as well as any signs of autism spectrum disorder.

Screening tests have been widely studied and are generally considered to have high sensitivity and specificity. The most commonly used screening tests in the United States include the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ), the Parents Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS), and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Social-Emotional (ASQ:SE). The ASQ is used to evaluate the development of children from birth to 5 years of age, the PEDS is used to evaluate children from birth to 8 years of age, and the ASQ:SE is used to evaluate social-emotional development in children ages 1.5 to 5 years. Other screening tools, such as the Infant-Toddler Checklist (ITC) and the Early Screening Inventory (ESI), are also available for use in different age groups.

In addition to screening tests, healthcare providers can use a variety of other methods to identify potential developmental and behavioral issues in young children. These include parent interviews, observations, and assessments. Parent interviews are important for gathering information about a child’s development and behavior, while observations can provide insight into a child’s interactions with others and their environment. Assessments, such as the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, can be used to evaluate a child’s cognitive, motor, and language functioning.

Overall, screening tests are an important tool for identifying potential developmental and behavioral issues in young children. Healthcare providers should use evidence-based screening tests in combination with other methods to ensure that children are receiving the appropriate level of care and intervention.


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018). Developmental and Behavioral Screening and Surveillance. Pediatrics, 142(3), e20173448.

Bishop, P., & Fomina-Yadlin, D. (2015). Screening Tools in Pediatric Primary Care. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 45(3), 64-74.

Kirchner, J. L., & Johnston, M. V. (2016). Child Developmental and Behavioral Screening Tools. Pediatrics, 138(3), e20162302.

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