Skip to main content

Children’s Perspectives on Emotions Informing a Child-Reported Screening Instrument

An Author Correction to this article was published on 22 October 2021

This article has been updated


To accurately assess children’s emotional and behavioral distress via self-report, we must design instruments that are meaningful to them. This study was an essential first step in co-designing digitally animated assessment items for a new self-reported screening instrument for children: The Interactive Child Distress Screener (ICDS). Twenty children aged five to 11 years participated in semi-structured small group interviews to discuss 15 pairs of contrasting emotional and behavioral constructs (EBC’s). Interview questions were designed to determine how children comprehend, express, and recognize these EBC’s and were correlated to the following five categories to aid the development of the animated items: lexical understanding, visual expression, narrative settings, behavioral actions, and audio cues. Data were analyzed by cataloguing common responses for each EBC across the five categories and examining whether age-specific response typologies were apparent. Except for lexical labeling abilities, results indicated a distinct lack of age-related differences in children’s comprehension of physical and expressive displays of EBC’s between age group levels. This highlights the importance of audio-visual depictions of EBC’s over written text. Typology tables for each of the construct pairs were produced describing corresponding visual demonstrations, narrative contexts, behavioral actions, and audio cues shared by all children. These typologies provide insight into the child’s perspective of socio-emotional and behavioral archetypes and were utilized to inform the development of animated items for a novel screening tool. This study utilized co-design methodologies and produced datasets that may inform the development of mental health tools, interventions, or activities for children concerning emotional and behavioral concepts.


  • Audiovisual depictions of emotions and behaviours are promising assessment items for collecting child reported data.

  • Narrative contexts and visually expressive movements enhance children’s understanding of emotions and behaviours.

  • Age differences in verbal labeling ability does not constrain emotion understanding when multisensory data is integrated.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Change history


Download references


This research was supported by an Australian Commonwealth Government Research Training Scheme scholarship.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kirsty L. Zieschank.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Consent to Publish

Additional assent was obtained from all child participants and written, informed consent from participants parents/legal guardians to publish images in Figures 1 through 15 included in Supplementary material.

Ethical Approval

“All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Southern Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee H16REA003 and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards”.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zieschank, K.L., Machin, T., Day, J. et al. Children’s Perspectives on Emotions Informing a Child-Reported Screening Instrument. J Child Fam Stud 30, 3105–3120 (2021).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Child perspective
  • Emotions
  • Behaviors
  • Screening instruments
  • Assessment