Psychometric evaluation of a single-item screening tool for the presence of problematic sexual behavior among preteen children

Brian Allen, Lauren Ferrer Pistone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Preteen children with problematic sexual behavior (PSB) are increasingly coming to the attention of mental health professionals. However, efforts to provide clinical care to these children are hampered by the limited dissemination and implementation of effective screening procedures. Objective: A single-item screening tool designed for implementation in mental health settings was developed and tested for psychometric quality. Participants: Participants included caregivers of children receiving clinical services as a result of displaying PSB and/or subsequent to disclosure of child maltreatment (n = 341). Methods: Caregivers completed the single-item tool at the onset of services and approximately 15 days later. In addition, caregivers completed the Child Sexual Behavior Inventory, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, and the Child Stress Disorder Checklist-Short Form at the initial assessment. Results: Analyses demonstrated acceptable test-retest reliability of the tool (phi = 0.70–0.74, p <.001). Validity was established by showing that caregivers providing a positive response on the single-item tool scored children significantly higher on a full-length measure assessing PSB than caregivers denying such concerns on the single-item tool (t = 7.28–9.8, p <.001). However, scores on measures of internalizing concerns and posttraumatic stress symptoms were not distinguished by caregiver responses to the single item tool. Conclusions: The newly developed single-item tool appears to offer an efficient, reliable, and valid method of screening preteen children for the presence of PSB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106327
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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