With the constant evolution that intrinsically entails the knowledge of psychology, there is a growing need for more complete evaluation instruments that allow for the achievement of a more comprehensive assessment process. This is even more relevant in the case of the child population, where a process of psychological development is taking place that will be a determining factor in the subsequent attainment of personality and adult functioning.

In this sense, the boom in multidimensional psychometric testing is becoming increasingly evident. This type of approach allows for the consideration of personal variations in the characteristics and manifestations of psychological problems. The Evaluation System in Children and Adolescents (SENA) is a good example of this type of methodology that has a series of particularities that greatly facilitate the role of the clinician in the evaluation of child and adolescent psychopathology.

Description and application of the SENA

The SENA is aimed at assessing the set of emotional and behavioral problems that can be observed between 3 and 18 years of age . Its publication in 2015 was a proposal to replace a very similar previous test, the BASC (System of Behavioural Assessment of Children and Adolescents) in order to update some of the elements included in the scales, increase the validity index of the test and complement it with other scales of clinical interest, such as those relating to Psychological Resources and Areas of Vulnerability.

More specifically, the SENA presents three types of questionnaire according to the age of the person assessed : infant education (3-6 years), primary education (6-12 years) and secondary education (12-18 years). It also has the particularity that each chronological section of the test is multi-informant, each one being made up of three complementary questionnaires: the self-report, which collects the answers of the subject himself; the family report, answered by the parents; the school report, which contemplates the assessment in the school environment observed by the child’s tutor or also by the school psychologist.

What does the SENA evaluate?

This instrument makes it possible to obtain, through the different age-specific and informant forms, an exhaustive assessment to determine the existence and intensity of the emotional and behavioural problems most commonly associated with the child and adolescent population. Thus, more specifically the SENA differentiates the following typologies of psychological difficulties .

Internalised problems

These are related to anxiety-related or dysphoric symptoms and more usually become internal emotional manifestations of the individual.

Externalized problems

Their indicators may be more externally evident and related to more behavioural aspects.

Contextual problems

These scales are shaped by the assessment of problems in the family and school environment (differentiating academic from relational difficulties with respect to peers).

Specific problems

Depending on the chronological mode administered, the following types of problems are evaluated:

All of the above scales converge to produce overall indices that synthesize the findings of these scales and add an overall value of difficulties in executive functions and total level of staff resources.

On the other hand, the SENA also provides other types of indexes with very relevant information that facilitate a more in-depth and complete evaluation of the personal disposition of the person evaluated in order to establish more clearly whether the problems found have a more or less favourable prognosis . These include the scales of vulnerabilities or factors more linked to a more unfavourable prognosis and personal resources, which are understood to be protective factors associated with a better prognosis.

On the other hand, the SENA highlights the presence of positive responses to critical items, the seriousness of which requires special attention to be paid to their more detailed analysis, such as questions about suicidal ideation, school bullying, hallucinations, etc.

Finally, this tool measures, by means of control scales, the sincerity with which informants have responded without minimizing, maximizing or manifesting an inconsistent style in the responses provided. The scales included in this section refer to Inconsistency and Positive/Negative Printing of the responses provided.

Conclusion: purpose, reliability and validity of the SENA

Like any psychometric psychological assessment instrument, the SENA does not claim to serve as the sole diagnostic tool . Although it is true that it provides a large volume of information, everything found from it should be complemented with a good process of anamnesis and other methodologies such as observation, interview or the administration of other complementary tests. As a whole, this will allow a clearer diagnostic impression to be made, as well as to outline the type of psychological intervention most appropriate to the case being evaluated.

As regards the main indices that assess the quality of a psychological assessment instrument, reliability (the degree to which the test is accurate in the variables it measures) and validity (the security with which the test measures the variable it wishes to measure), satisfactory levels have been obtained in both areas.

Thus, the average obtained in all the SENA scales has reached an internal consistency or reliability of 0.86 (values between 0.0 and 1.0). On the other hand, the level of agreement among informants is between 40 and 60%, which places the SENA in the average of most assessment instruments and even slightly higher depending on the source of the informant and the clinical scale determined.

Finally, with regard to the validity of the test , the long process and the participation of a large group of experts who have intervened in the preparation and review of the items that make up the test are a sample of the exhaustive work carried out to achieve a satisfactory validity value.

Bibliographic references:

  • Fernández-Pinto, I., Santamaría, P., Sánchez-Sánchez, F., Carrasco, M.A. y del Barrio, V. (2015) SENA. System of Evaluation of Children and Adolescents: Manual de Aplicación, corrección e interpretación. Madrid: TEA Ediciones.
  • Fernández-Pinto, I., Santamaría, P., Sánchez-Sánchez, F., Carrasco, M.A. y del Barrio, V. (2015) SENA. System of Evaluation of Children and Adolescents: Manual Técnico. Madrid: TEA Ediciones.