Child Development Screenings Increased Over Past Decade, Per UCLA Study

A new policy brief issued this week by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) found that developmental screenings for young children ages one through five increased from 2007 to 2018. Whether health care providers asked parents about developmental concerns also increased over the same timer period.

The study, funded by First 5 California, used data from the UCLA CHPR’s California Health Interview Survey and found that 72 percent of California parents reported that their child was assessed for developmental delays in 2018 compared to 29.5 percent in 2007. 64.3 percent of parents stated that a doctor or other professional asked if they had concerns about their child’s learning, development, or behavior in 2018 compared to 47.2 percent in 2007.

The brief assesses the prevalence of screenings across demographic characteristics and found differences by household income, insurance type, parental education, and race and ethnicity. Among those findings:

  • Parents were more likely to report that their children received developmental screenings and were asked about developmental concerns if they had higher household incomes, employment-based insurance, a usual source of medical care, higher education levels, spoke only English at home, and identified race/ethnicity as non-Hispanic White.
  • By contrast, low rates of screening were found for families with Medi-Cal insurance, without a usual source of medical care, with incomes less than 300 percent of federal poverty level, educational attainment of high school diploma or less, reported race/ethnicity of Hispanic or African American, and dual language learner children in the home. Parents identifying as Asian also reported less frequently being asked about developmental concerns.

UCLA CHPR cites support for universal developmental surveillance and screening as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and for future research to help identify more barriers to assessment.

The full policy brief is available here.