SENA: an effective clinical assessment system for children and young people

With the constant evolution which intrinsically implies the knowledge of psychology, more and more complete evaluation instruments are necessary and which allow the realization of a more complete evaluation process. This is even more relevant in the case of the child population, where a process of psychological development takes place which will be decisive in the subsequent realization of adult personality and functioning.

In this sense, the rise of multidimensional psychometric tests is becoming increasingly evident. This type of approach allows one to contemplate personal variations in the characteristics and manifestations of psychological problems. The Child and Adolescent Assessment System (SENA) is a good example of this type of methodology. which exhibits a number of characteristics which greatly facilitate the clinic’s role in the assessment of child and adolescent psychopathology.

    Description and application of SENA

    SENA aims to assess all the emotional and behavioral problems observable between 3 and 18 years old. Its publication in 2015 was a proposal to replace a very similar previous test, the BASC (System of Assessment of the Behavior of Children and Adolescents) in order to update some of the items included in the scales, increase the index validity of the test and supplement it with other scales of clinical interest, such as those relating to psychological resources and areas of vulnerability.

    Specifically, the SENA presents three types of questionnaires depending on the age of the person assessed: Infant education (3-6 years), primary education (6-12 years) and secondary education (12-18 years). It also has the particularity that each chronological section of the test is multi-informative, each one made up of three complementary questionnaires: the self-report, which collects the answers of the subject himself; the family relationship, answered by the parents; the school report, which provides for the school-based evaluation observed by the child’s tutor or also by the school psychologist.

    What does SENA assess?

    This instrument makes it possible to obtain, through the different specific forms of age and informants, a comprehensive assessment to determine the existence and intensity of the emotional and behavioral problems most frequently associated with the population of children and adolescents. . So more specifically SENA differentiates the following types of psychological difficulties.

    internalized problems

    These are linked to anxiety or dysphoric symptoms and more frequently become internal emotional manifestations of the individual.

    externalized problems

    Its indicators may be more obvious from the outside and relate to more behavioral aspects.

    contextual issues

    These scales consist of the evaluation of problems in family and at school (differentiating school difficulties from relations with peers).

    specific problems

    Depending on the chronological modality administered, the existence of the following types of problems is assessed:

    All the scales mentioned converge towards obtaining global indices which summarize what one finds there and add a general value of the difficulties in the executive functions and the total level of personal resources.

    On the other hand, the SENA also provides another type of index with very relevant information that facilitates a more in-depth and complete assessment of the personal dispositions of the person assessed in order to establish more clearly if the problems encountered correspond to a more or less favorable prognosis. These include the vulnerability scales or factors most closely related to a worse prognosis and personal resources, which are understood as protective factors associated with a better prognosis.

    On the other hand, the SENA highlights the presence of positive responses in the critical elements, the seriousness of which requires special attention to its more detailed analysis, such as questions on suicidal thoughts, bullying, hallucinations, etc. .

    Finally, this tool measures, by means of control scales, the sincerity with which the informants responded without minimizing, maximizing or manifesting an inconsistent style in the responses provided. The scales included in this section refer to the inconsistency and positive / negative impression of the answers provided.

      Conclusion: objective, reliability and validity of SENA

      Like any psychometric instrument for psychological assessment, the SENA it is not intended by itself to serve as a single diagnostic element. While it is true that it provides a large volume of information, all that derives from it should be supplemented by a good history-taking process and other methodologies such as observation, interview or administration of ‘other additional tests. All in all, this will rigorously form a clearer diagnostic impression, as well as outline the type of psychological intervention most appropriate for the case in question.

      With respect to the main indices that assess the quality of a psychological assessment instrument, reliability (the degree to which the test is needed in the variables it measures) and validity (the certainty with which the test measures variable you want to measure), satisfactory levels have been achieved in both areas.

      Thus, the average obtained at all the SENA scales achieved internal consistency or reliability of 0.86 (Values ​​between 0.0 and 1.0). In contrast, the level of agreement between informants is between 40 and 60%, which places the SENA on average for most assessment instruments and even slightly higher depending on the source of notification and the clinical scale determined.

      finally concerning the validity of the testThe long process and the participation of a large group of experts who participated in the development and revision of the items that make up the test is a sample of the exhaustive work done to achieve a satisfactory validity value.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Fernández-Pinto, I., Santamaria, P., Sánchez-Sánchez, F., Carrasco, MA and the Barri, V. (2015) SENA. Child and Adolescent Assessment System: Application, Correction and Interpretation Manual. Madrid: TEA Publishing.
      • Fernández-Pinto, I., Santamaria, P., Sánchez-Sánchez, F., Carrasco, MA and the Barri, V. (2015) SENA. Child and Adolescent Assessment System: Technical Manual. Madrid: TEA Publishing.

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