Open Access Open Badges Research article

A rapid screening tool for psychological distress in children 3–6years old: results of a validation study

Caroline Marquer1*, Caroline Barry2, Yoram Mouchenik347, Sarah Hustache1, Douma M Djibo5, Mahamane L Manzo6, Bruno Falissard2, Anne Révah-Lévy2, Rebecca F Grais1 and Marie-Rose Moro278

Author Affiliations

1 Epicentre, 8 rue St Sabin, Paris, F-75011, France

2 Inserm U669, Université Paris-Sud et Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France

3 Université Toulouse le Mirail, Toulouse, France

4 Hospital Sainte-Anne, Paris, France

5 National program of mental health, Ministry of Health, Niamey, Niger

6 Regional Department of Public Health, Maradi, Niger

7 Médecins Sans Frontières, Paris, France

8 Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Hôpital Cochin, Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris, Paris, France

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BMC Psychiatry 2012, 12:170  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-170

Published: 16 October 2012



The mental health needs of young children in humanitarian contexts often remain unaddressed. The lack of a validated, rapid and simple tool for screening combined with few mental health professionals able to accurately diagnose and provide appropriate care mean that young children remain without care. Here, we present the results of the principle cross-cultural validation of the “Psychological Screening for Young Children aged 3 to 6” (PSYCAa3-6). The PSYCa 3–6 is a simple scale for children 3 to 6 years old administered by non-specialists, to screen young children in crises and thereby refer them to care if needed.


This study was conducted in Maradi, Niger. The scale was translated into Hausa, using corroboration of independent translations. A cross-cultural validation was implemented using quantitative and qualitative methods. A random sample of 580 mothers or caregivers of children 3 to 6 years old were included. The tool was psychometrically examined and diagnostic properties were assessed comparing the PSYCa 3–6 against a clinical interview as the gold standard.


The PSYCa 3–6 Hausa version demonstrated good concurrent validity, as scores correlated with the gold standard and the Clinical Global Impression Severity Scale (CGI-S) [rho = 0.41, p-value = 0.00]. A reduction procedure was used to reduce the scale from 40 to 22 items. The test-retest reliability of the PSYCa 3–6 was found to be high (ICC 0.81, CI95% [0.68; 0.89]). In our sample, although not the purpose of this study, approximately 54 of 580 children required subsequent follow-up with a psychologist.


To our knowledge, this is the first validation of a screening scale for children 3 to 6 years old with a cross-cultural validation component, for use in humanitarian contexts. The Hausa version of the PSYCa 3–6 is a reliable and a valuable screening tool for psychological distress. Further studies to replicate our findings and additional validations of the PSYCa 3–6 in other populations may help improve the delivery of mental health care to children.