Detecting infants in need: Are complicated measures really necessary?



The object of this paper was to study how the Baby Alarm Distress Scale (ADBB), developed as a simple screening tool for front line professionals working with infants, correlates with the more detailed assessment method of the Global Rating Scale (GRS) for Mother-Infant Interaction at two and four months. A sample of 127 eight- to eleven-week-old infants was videotaped in free interaction with their mothers, and infant interaction behavior was rated with both methods by independent researchers. Compared to the GRS infant scales the sensitivity of the ADBB, using the recommended cutoff point of 5 or more, was 0.77 and specificity 0.80. In further analyses it was found that deviant ratings of two items of the ADBB, the quality of eye contact between the infant and the caregiver and assessment of the sense of relationship between the infant and the caregiver, were the items most strongly associated with poor interaction skills of the infant on the GRS. Mothers of infants found deviant in the ADBB performed more poorly in the interaction with their infants when compared to mothers of infants found healthy in the ADBB. For the purpose of detecting deviations in infant interaction skills as signs of possible problems in early parent-infant interaction the ADBB seems to be a sufficiently sensitive and specific instrument. However, the results of this study still need to be tested with larger samples and against other observation methods.