Prevention Science

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 306–317 | Cite as

Knowing Every Child: Validation of the Holistic Student Assessment (HSA) as a Measure of Social-Emotional Development

  • Tina Malti
  • Antonio Zuffianò
  • Gil G. Noam


Knowing every child’s social-emotional development is important as it can support prevention and intervention approaches to meet the developmental needs and strengths of children. Here, we discuss the role of social-emotional assessment tools in planning, implementing, and evaluating preventative strategies to promote mental health in all children and adolescents. We, first, selectively review existing tools and identify current gaps in the measurement literature. Next, we introduce the Holistic Student Assessment (HSA), a tool that is based in our social-emotional developmental theory, The Clover Model, and designed to measure social-emotional development in children and adolescents. Using a sample of 5946 students (51% boys, M age = 13.16 years), we provide evidence for the psychometric validity of the self-report version of the HSA. First, we document the theoretically expected 7-dimension factor structure in a calibration sub-sample (n = 984) and cross-validate its structure in a validation sub-sample (n = 4962). Next, we show measurement invariance across development, i.e., late childhood (9- to 11-year-olds), early adolescence (12- to 14-year-olds), and middle adolescence (15- to 18-year-olds), and evidence for the HSA’s construct validity in each age group. The findings support the robustness of the factor structure and confirm its developmental sensitivity. Structural equation modeling validity analysis in a multiple-group framework indicates that the HSA is associated with mental health in expected directions across ages. Overall, these findings show the psychometric properties of the tool, and we discuss how social-emotional tools such as the HSA can guide future research and inform large-scale dissemination of preventive strategies.


Social-emotional assessment tool Child and youth mental health Social-emotional development theory Prevention and intervention planning 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


The first author was funded, in part, by a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In addition, the authors wish to thank the Leon Lowenstein Foundation and the Noyce Foundation for their support.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendment.

Informed Consent

Informed consent of participants was obtained.


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoMississaugaCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyLiverpool Hope UniversityLiverpoolUK
  3. 3.Harvard Medical SchoolMcLean HospitalBelmontUSA

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