Screening the Whole Social-Emotional Child: Expanding a Brief SEL Assessment to Include Emotional Behavior Concerns

Stephen Nelson Elliott, Pui Wa Lei, Christopher J. Anthony, James Clyde DiPerna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Universal screening of students is increasing as programs are implemented for improving social emotional learning (SEL) skills. Assessments used to conduct SEL screenings focus on social emotional strengths; however, such assessments can provide a broader characterization of students’ wellbeing by concurrently screening for emotional behavior concerns (EBC). This article describes the development of brief EBC-Internalizing and EBC-Externalizing scales designed to augment the SSIS SEL Brief Scales (SSIS SELb) Teacher and Student Forms. To further evaluate the utility of concurrently screening for SEL and EBCs, we examined distributions of SEL scores at each EBC Concern level. Both the Teacher and Student assessments of SEL skills and EBC behaviors maximized efficiency and yielded reliable and valid scores that provide insights regarding the interplay of these behavior constructs. The SSIS SELb and EBC scales can be administered together as the SSIS SELb + Mental Health Scales to provide efficient measurement of the whole social emotional child. The article examines the study’s limitations, follow-up research, and implications for using brief universal screenings and instructional programs to advance the wellbeing of students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Journal School Psychology Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • criterion-referenced scores
  • emotional behavior concerns
  • mental health screening
  • social emotional learning
  • universal screening
  • whole social emotional child assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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