IN THIS ISSUE

The Conners Early Childhood: Book review

The authors review the Conners Early Childhood program that helps psychologists acquire the knowledge and skills needed to confidently administer, score and interpret the Conners EC test results

By Kristen Girard, MA and Sara Leggett, MA

School psychologists live and breathe prevention, assessment and intervention. But, they also play an important role in the promotion of positive outcomes for all learners. The Conners Early Childhood (Conners EC) is a new assessment tool that can aid school psychologists who work with preschool populations. The Conners EC assessment tool uses multiple informants (i.e., parents and teachers/childcare providers) to broadly assess a wide variety of behavioral, emotional, and social concerns as well as developmental milestones for children 2 to 6 years old (Conners, 2009). The following review describes the basics of the Conners EC and critically examines the measure’s strengths and weaknesses for its use in practice.

The basics of the Conners EC

Since 1989, when the original Conners Rating Scales were published, the measures have been revised and refined. The Conners EC, published by Multi-Health Systems, is the newest edition to the group of Conners assessments. The Conners EC may be useful for clinical assessment, early identification of children with disabilities or developmental delays, assessment for special education services, group screenings or research. It can also be used as data to develop an intervention or evaluate an intervention’s effectiveness.

The structure of the Conners EC is presented in figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Figure from Sparrow, E. P. (2010) Essentials of Conners Behavior Assessments. New Jersey: John

Figure 1. Figure from Sparrow, E. P. (2010) Essentials of Conners Behavior Assessments. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 

The Conners EC should be completed by multiple individuals to provide data about the child in multiple contexts. These individuals should complete the rating forms about the child’s behavior over the past month. The different versions of the rating forms only require a fifth grade reading level. A unique feature of the Conners EC is that it can be administered in paper-and-pencil format or online via the Internet (Clark, 2009).

The measure includes a variety of forms that can be used depending upon the amount of information desired or the amount of time available. The Conners EC is available in both English and Spanish versions and all of the scales are available in full-length forms (administration time = 25 minutes). The Conners EC Behavior, Developmental, and Conners ECGI forms are available in “standalone” forms (administration time = 10 minutes) for more focused evaluations, and the Behavioral scales are available in shortforms (administration time = 10 minutes), which are appropriate when there are time constraints or a need for multiple administrations. Finally, the Conners Early Childhood Global Index (ECGI) includes the 10 highest loading items from the original Conners Parent and Teacher Rating Scales.

Background/research

The Conners EC was standardized on a sample of 3,281 ratings by parents and teachers/childcare providers in the U.S. and Canada. The normative sample of 800 parents and 800 teachers/childcare providers was a subset of the larger sample and is representative of the general U. S. population (2000 census) based on age, gender and race/ethnicity. Demographic analyses indicated that separate gender and age-based (in 6-month age bands) norms were necessary.

High levels of internal consistency (coefficients ranging from .86 to .93) and test-retest reliability (.87 to .95) demonstrate the reliability of the measure. Inter-rater correlations among parents are a bit lower (.72 to .84) and unfortunately no inter-rater scores could be calculated for teachers due to the fact that many young children only have a single teacher.

Convergent and divergent validity is established by examining the correlations between the Conners EC and other measures. Comparisons with the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition, Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function — Preschool Version, and Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment reveal correlations between .83 and .91. Although it is expected that parents and teachers will have different opinions and experiences with a child’s behavior and therefore different rating scores, the similarity of scores across raters provides support for the construct validity of the measure since the different rating forms measure similar constructs. With the exception of physical symptoms (.46), these across-informant correlation coefficients range from .67 to .87.

Although years of research validate the other Conners assessments, particularly the previous editions, there is a lack of research on the Conners EC. Currently, there are just two Mental Measurements Yearbook reviews published about the measure (Aspiranti, 2009; Clark, 2009). The most supported section of the Conners EC is the ECGI because these 10 items, taken from the other Conners scales, have been supported with many years of research (Conners, 2009).

Recommendations/critique

The Conners EC is easy to administer and score and the software can produce assessment reports from a single administration, progress reports to display change over time, and comparative reports (Sparrow, 2010). Some points of concern still remain. For example, the reliability and validity are higher for upper age groups. As a result, caution should be used when interpreting the results for 2- and 3-year-olds (Aspiranti, 2009). In addition, the majority of behavioral items are worded negatively, which parents or teachers may find uncomfortable. Several of the forms include two open-ended “Additional Questions” but there is no information provided about the statistical analyses of these questions among the samples (Clark, 2009). Caution should be exercised when using the Conners EC for intervention or special education planning, as the manual does not include any explicit ways to align the assessment with intervention. As with any rating scale, the Conners EC should not be used in isolation. The data provided by the scale should be combined with record reviews, interviews, observations and direct assessments in the comprehensive evaluation process. Despite these limitations, if future research supports the measure and it is properly used in context, the Conners EC is an excellent tool for school psychologists working with early childhood populations.

References

Aspiranti, K.B. (2009). [Review of the Conners Early Childhood]. The eighteenth mental measurements yearbook. [Electronic version]. Retrieved February 4, 2011

Clark, J.N. (2009). [Review of the Conners Early Childhood]. The eighteenth mental measurements yearbook. [Electronic version]. Retrieved February 4, 2011

Conners, C.K. (2009). Conners Early Childhood manual. Toronto, Canada: Multi-HealthSystems.

Sparrow, E.P. (2010) Essentials of Conners Behavior Assessments. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

About the authors

Kristen Girard is a third-year doctoral candidate in school psychology at Michigan State University.

Sara Leggett is a third-year Ed.S. student in school psychology at Michigan State University.