Abstract: The Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children: A Psychometric Systematic Review (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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The Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children: A Psychometric Systematic Review

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Lauren Stanley, MSW, Doctoral Student, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Chris Stanley, MSW, Associate in Research, Florida State University, Tallahassee
Background and Purpose: Almost two-thirds of children in the United States experience a traumatic event by the age of sixteen with a 1.4% increase in the number of children experiencing trauma prior to age three (Child Trends, 2016). Prior to the development of the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children (TSCYC, Briere et al., 2001), the field lacked a standardized traumatic stress symptom measure for children younger than seven years old. The TSCYC is widely used for clinical diagnostic practices and research. The purpose of this study, as guided by Messick’s (1995) Unifying Theory of Validity, was to conduct a systematic review of the existing evidence for the psychometric properties of the TSCYC.

Methods:Best-practice guidelines for systematic reviews and PRISMA standards were followed. The final search strategy included a review of the following databases due to their breadth of child-related psychological, medical, and educational literature: ISI Web of Science, PsychINFO, ERIC, and Medline. Using Covidence software for data management, the two authors first screened the titles and abstracts of the studies per inclusion and exclusion criteria (n=78; Cohen’s k=0.77), then reviewed the full text of the articles in the second stage of review (n=23; Cohen’s k=0.96) for a final sample size of 21 studies. Coding-sheets were used to extract all relevant data from the articles.

Results: The total sample from all the studies combined in the review was 7,836 children (M=373.14,SD=609.30) with mean ages of children in the studies ranged from 4.7 years (n=218, SD=0.8) to 10 years 10 months (n=239, SD=36 months). Results indicated moderate to strong reliability of the TSCYC and translated versions, with consistent test-retest reliability. Identified concerns from the review were an over-representation of females and children who experienced sexual abuse in the overall sample. In children younger than six years old, the measure demonstrated moderate convergent validity with its global scale, however, weak to moderate associations between subscales and measures of depression and anxiety. This may indicate the scale’s inability to be a comprehensive measure of developmentally appropriate traumatic stress symptomology in children.

Conclusions and Implications: Results were interpreted using Messick’s (1995) Unifying Theory of Validity and have important implications for both clinical practice and research. For older children (8-12 years), there are benefits to interpreting the parent-completed TSCYC scores in conjunction with the child-completed TSCC scores to develop a comprehensive profile of the child’s current symptomology. The slight evidence provided for younger children (3-5 years), indicated use and interpretation of scores should be done with caution until further empirical evidence is presented. Future research should include samples representing early childhood years and varying trauma experiences. Testing the relation of TSCYC scores with other child outcomes, such as educational outcomes, would strengthen its contextual utility.