Standardised tool to assess cognitive and language development in two year olds
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Standardised tool to assess cognitive and language development in two year olds

by Freya Lucas

August 14, 2019

A new paper, recently published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health provides standardised scores for The Parent Report of Children’s Abilities Revised (PARCA-R) questionnaire. 


The PARCA-R is a series of questions which are completed by parents in 10-15 minutes, to screen for cognitive and language developmental delay in children who have been born prematurely. It is recommended for routine use in the UK. 


The Australian equivalent of the PARCA-R screening is the Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS), and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). Whilst these screening tools are in the domain of allied health professionals, they will be of interest to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, as educators seek to support and guide children and families through expected ranges of development. 


A new website has been launched with an online version of the questionnaire, which may be of interest to educators seeking to broaden their understanding of child development, or to expand their professional learning in this realm. The website also provides a pre-programmed calculator for deriving the standardised scores.


Researchers at the University of Warwick collaborated with colleagues to standardise the PARCA-R as part of research funded by Action Medical Research


Data from over 6,000 PARCA-R questionnaires completed by parents of two-year old children in three previous studies were used as a standardisation sample. This sample was representative of the UK population in terms of sex, gestational age, multiple birth, ethnicity and socio-economic status. Anonymous data from three further studies were used to assess external validity of the standardised scores.


Standardisation of the PARCA-R will enable it to be used to quantify a child’s developmental level relative to the UK population of two-year olds, and identify advanced or delayed development. 


It is freely available for parents to use and has been translated into 14 languages, but standardised scores have, so far, only been developed for the original English version in the UK population. Developmental assessment can be costly to administer and the PARCA-R provides a reliable, cost-effective alternative that could eventually be extended for use in low- and middle-income countries.


Professor Dieter Wolke, from the University of Warwick Department of Psychology, said: “Over the last 15 years my colleagues and I adapted a research tool and tested its suitability for easy screening of cognitive and language developmental delay of two year olds in the community. We now publish the norms – how well a particular child does in relation to all children in the UK on cognition or language at a particular age – for the PARCA-R and make it freely available to clinicians and parents.”


For more information on the PARCA-R screening tool, please see here

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