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Family Pack of Questionnaires and Scales

This pack, which accompanies the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (2000), sets out how a number of questionnaires and scales can be used by social work and other social services staff when assessing children and their families.

Principles underpinning the use of questionnaires and scales

  • Clarity of Purpose. Clarity about aims is fundamental to all assessment. In practice these can be broad ranging or more focused, depending on timing and context, but in general there will be an intention to gather a range of relevant information in a manner that promotes, or sustains, a working relationship with the children and families being assessed: in most circumstances information is of limited use if collaboration has broken down.
  • Assessment is not a static process. The process of assessment should be therapeutic. An assessment has many purposes. It should inform future work, and evaluate the progress of interventions. The way in which the assessment is carried out is also important. It should enable those involved to gain fresh perspectives on their family situation, which are in themselves therapeutic.
  • Partnership is informed by professional judgement. It follows that, although partnership is a fundamental principle, this does not mean that every detail of information gained, or in particular the practitioners judgement about that information, is shared immediately and in full with those being assessed. Sustaining partnership and positive therapeutic impact are overriding principles.
  • Assessment does not take place in a vacuum. Assessments benefit from multiple sources of information, and multiple methods. Any one source used alone is likely to give either a limited or unbalanced view. This applies to all the main approaches: interviewing, observation, and the use of standardised tests and questionnaires.
  • Limitations should be recognised.Contrasting data from different methods and/ or sources is vital to develop a deeper and more balanced understanding of the situation.

 Summary of Questionnaires and Scales

The following eight questionnaires and scales are included in the Family Pack of Scales and Questionnaires  (DoH Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families):

2.1 The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (Goodman, 1997; Goodman et al, 1998).

These scales are a modification of the very widely used instruments to screen for emotional and behavioural problems in children and adolescents – the Rutter A + B scales for parents and teachers. Although similar to Rutter’s, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire’s wording was re-framed to focus on a child’s emotional and behavioural strengths as well as difficulties. The actual questionnaire incorporates five scales: pro-social, hyperactivity, emotional problems, conduct (behavioural) problems, and peer problems. In the pack, there are versions of the scale to be
completed by adult caregivers, or teachers for children from age 3 to 16, and young people between the ages of 11–16. These questionnaires have been used with disabled children and their teachers and carers.

2.2 The Parenting Daily Hassles Scale (Crnic and Greenberg, 1990; Crnic and Booth, 1991).

This scale aims to assess the frequency and intensity/impact of 20 potential parenting ‘daily’ hassles experienced by adults caring for children. It has been used in a wide variety of research studies concerned with children and families – particularly families with young children. It has been found that parents (or caregivers) generally like filling it out, because it touches on many aspects of being a parent that are important to them.

2.3 Home Conditions Scale (The Family Cleanliness Scale. Davie et al, 1984).

Addresses various aspects of the home environment (for example, smell, state of surfaces in house, floors). The total score has been found to correlate highly with indices of the development of children.

2.4 Adult Wellbeing Scale (Irritability, Depression, Anxiety – IDA Scale. Snaith et al, 1978).

This scale looks at how an adult is feeling in terms of depression, anxiety and irritability. The questions are framed in a 'personal' fashion (i.e. I feel..., My appetite is…). The scale allows the adult to respond from four possible answers.

2.5 The Adolescent Wellbeing Scale (Self-rating Scale for Depression in Young People. Birleson, 1980).

It was originally validated for children aged between 7–16 years. It involves 18 questions each relating to different aspects of a child or adolescent’s life, and how they feel about these. As a result of the pilot the wording of some questions was altered in order to be more appropriate to adolescents. Although children as young as seven and eight have used it, older children’s thoughts and beliefs about themselves are more stable. The scale is intended to enable practitioners to gain more insight and understanding into how an adolescent feels about their life.

2.6 The Recent Life Events Questionnaire This scale was taken from Brugha et al (1985), with nine additional items added.

It focuses on recent life events (i.e. those occurring in the last 12 months) but could be used over a longer time-scale. It is intended to assist in the compilation of a social history. Respondents are asked to identify which of the events still affects them. It is intended that use of the scale will:

  • result in a fuller picture of a family’s history and contribute to greater contextual understanding of the family’s current situation;
  • help practitioners explore how particular recent life events have affected the carer and the family;
  • in some situations, identify life events which family members have not reported earlier.

2.7 The Family Activity Scale (Derived from The Child-Centredness Scale. Smith, 1985).

These scales give practitioners an opportunity to explore with carers the environment provided for their children, through joint activities and support for independent activities. This includes information about the cultural and ideological environment in which children live, as well as how their carers respond to their children’s actions (for example, concerning play and independence). They aim to be independent of socio-economic resources. There are two separate scales; one for children aged 2–6, and one for children aged 7–12.

2.8 The Alcohol Use Scale (Developed by Piccinelli et al (1997).

Alcohol abuse is estimated to be present in about 6% of primary carers, ranking it third in frequency behind major depression and generalised anxiety. Higher rates are found in certain localities, and particularly amongst those parents known to social services departments. Drinking alcohol affects different individuals in different ways. For example, some people may be relatively unaffected by the same amount of alcohol that incapacitates others. The primary concern therefore is not the amount of alcohol consumed, but how it impacts on the individual and, more particularly, on their role as a parent. This questionnaire has been found to be effective in detecting individuals with alcohol disorders and those with hazardous drinking habits.