Assessing psychosocial well-being of adolescents: a systematic review of measuring instruments


Sing Kai Lo, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, 10 Lo Ping Road, Tai Po, New Territories, Hong Kong, China. E-mail:


Background  The paradigm shift from the clinically deficit-oriented approach to that of educationally strength-based model in assessing adolescents' psychosocial well-being has brought about a recent increase in school-based health promotion and prevention initiatives. This prompted this systematic review of measuring instruments designed to assess psychosocial well-being of children and adolescents.

Methods  Using electronic databases on Academic Search Premier, MEDLINE, PROQUEST, PsycINFO, CINAHL Plus and Psychosocial and Health Instrument, a systematic review of literature of measuring instruments was conducted from their inception to December 2009 using the keywords of child, emotion, assessment, scale and measure. Measuring instruments from selected articles were critically appraised using a predetermined set of quality indicators which guided the rating of the psychometric properties of the instruments into grades of A, B, and C. The constructs of psychosocial well-being from the measuring instruments were categorized into themes.

Results  Twenty-nine out of the 908 articles met the inclusion criteria. Seventeen instruments identified from the selected articles were examined using preset quality indicators. In construct building, the themes identified from the strength-based instruments distinguished the construct of psychosocial well-being primarily into the dimensions of personal emotional competency and social functioning. In the ratings of psychometric properties, one instrument was rated 5A, five rated 4A and four rated 3A. For reliability testing, eight measures received grade A when their intraclass correlation is higher than 0.7; whereas only two instruments reported sensitivity and none investigated responsiveness.

Conclusions  Strength-based measures focusing on social emotional behavioural outcomes open up a possibility to link up assessment with promotion of psychosocial well-being, away from clinical settings and into adolescents' homes, schools and community. Future research should focus more on investigating the sensitivity and responsiveness of measuring instruments using longitudinal design in efficacy studies to assess change in adolescents' psychosocial status over extended time.