Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


College of Nursing

First Advisor

Kathleen Scharer


Mental illness has surpassed physical health problems as the leading cause for morbidity and mortality in American children. National prevalence of serious emotional disorders in the 0-5 age group has ranged from 9.5% to 14.2%. Of the 15 million children affected by mental illness, less than 20- 25% receive any treatment. Nationwide, early screening, identification, and treatment of preschoolers with emotional or behavioral disorders have become a critical priority in order to reduce the increasing burden of healthcare costs for mental illness and psychiatric care. The purpose of this study was to test the feasibility of a screening process for preschool children led by teachers as a method for early identification of SED. A second purpose was to evaluate the success of facilitating access of children into the community mental health system to provide early intervention. Three community preschools in Aiken South Carolina participated in this study. The Child Behavior Checklist Teacher Form and Language Development Survey were utilized to screen children from 18 months to five years of age. The Assessment of Teacher Burden was completed by teachers to provide feedback about the screening process and impact on their workload. Analysis was completed utilizing descriptive statistics, Chi Square, and General Linear Model procedures. Results of the CBCL C-TRF identified 25% of the sample with borderline or clinical findings in one or more of the 14 behavioral syndromes. The LDS identified 39% of the sample having verbal delays. Access to the community mental health system was difficult and only one preschool was successful in providing follow up due to mental health therapists available at that center. The results indicated that a teacher led screening process was feasible for preschool children as a method for early identification of SED. Inferential analysis identified several indirect factors that may have influenced findings of this study. Variation in scores associated with gender and race of children was identified. Teacher educational background and type of center that the teachers worked also impacted results. Further research on teacher screening for serious emotional disorders in preschoolers is needed as well as increases in mental health service providers.


© 2014, Cathy Renee Robey-Williams

Included in

Nursing Commons