NZ preschoolers can get along well with others

Friday 24 September 2010, 7:31AM
By Ministry of Health

Most New Zealand preschoolers are well-adjusted, and few have difficulties with their emotions, behaviour, or concentration, or in getting along with others, data from the B4 School Checks initiative show.

“Overall, the social and emotional well-being of New Zealand preschoolers is good. For the majority of children, no major emotional and behavioural concerns were identified by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire,” Dr Pat Tuohy, the Ministry of Health’s Chief Advisor on Child and Youth Health, told delegates to the Public Health Association’s annual conference today.

The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is an internationally validated measure designed to get a picture of a child’s strengths and difficulties in the emotional and behavioural area. The questionnaire is being used as part of the B4 School Check to assess a child’s social and emotional development. One version of the questionnaire is filled out by parents and another by teachers in order to get two views of a child’s social and emotional development.

Citing B4School check data, Dr Tuohy said New Zealand preschoolers are “able to get along well with their peers, manage their behaviour and emotions, pay attention, and show appropriate social responses such as sharing and caring about others.”

Dr Tuohy said the mean scores of four-year-old New Zealand children on the SDQ were comparable to those of preschoolers in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. However, the assessment does raise some concerns about the higher rates of conduct problems seen in New Zealand preschoolers.

Dr Tuohy said the SDQ is in the process of being adapted to New Zealand children. “This provides a unique opportunity to assess the social and emotional development of New Zealand preschoolers and monitor this over time,” he noted.

Introduced in 2008, the B4 School Check consists of a general health questionnaire, screening for vision and hearing, and a standardised assessment of growth, dental, developmental, and social and emotional health status of preschoolers.