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The validity of the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment for culturally and linguistically diverse Head Start children

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The Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA) is a social-emotional assessment widely used by early childhood educational programs to inform early identification and intervention efforts. However, its construct validity is not well-established in independent samples of children from low-income backgrounds. We examined the construct validity of the teacher report of the DECA using a series of confirmatory factor analyses, exploratory factor analyses, and the Rasch partial credit model in a large sample of culturally and linguistically diverse Head Start children (N = 5,197). Findings provided some evidence for consistency in the factor structure of the three Protective Factors subscales (Initiative, Self-Control, and Attachment); however, the factor structure of the Behavioral Concerns subscale was not replicated in our sample and demonstrated poor fit to these data. Findings suggested that the 10 items of the published Behavioral Concerns subscale did not comprise a unidimensional construct, but rather, were better represented by two factors (externalizing and internalizing behavior). The use of the total Behavioral Concerns score as a screening tool to identify emotional and behavioral problems in diverse samples of preschool children from low-income backgrounds was not supported, especially for internalizing behavior. Implications for the consequential validity of the DECA for use as a screening tool in early childhood programs serving diverse populations of children and directions for future research are discussed. (author abstract)
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Reports & Papers
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United States

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