Research Article: How is your mind-set? Proof of concept for the measurement of the level of emotional development

Date Published: April 18, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Tanja Sappok, Julia Böhm, Joana Birkner, Gerhard Roth, Manuel Heinrich, Marina A. Pavlova.


In persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, not only cognitive brain functions, but also socio-emotional processing networks may be impaired. This study aims to validate the Scale of Emotional Development—Short (SED-S) to provide an instrument for the assessment of socio-emotional brain functions.

The SED-S was applied in 160 children aged 0–12 years. Criterion validity was investigated at item and scale level in terms of the agreement between the scale classification and the child’s chronological age. Additionally, interrater reliability and internal consistency were assessed.

For the majority of items, the expected response pattern emerged, showing the highest response probabilities in the respective target age groups. Agreement between the classification of the different SED-S domains and chronological age was high (κw = 0.95; exact agreement = 80.6%). Interrater reliability at domain level ranged from κw = .98 to 1.00 and internal consistency was high (α = .99).

The study normed the SED-S in a sample of typically developing children and provides evidence for criterion validity on item, domain and scale level.

Partial Text

For a comprehensive understanding of mental functioning, the traditional focus on intellectual competencies has to be widened to acknowledge socio-emotional brain functions as well [1]. These socio-emotional competencies can be conceptualized according to the emergence of the respective social processing networks alongside the trajectory of typically developing infants [2]. Thus, this comprehensive view of mental functioning comprises various aspects such as object permanency, self-other-differentiation, secure bounding, stress regulation, affect differentiation, impulse control and theory of mind [3; 4]. The maturation of emotional brain functions is the product of various internal (epi-) genetic and sensory and external factors such as bounding experience, trauma, education and learning. In a bottom-up process, the neuronal substrate, i.e. the developing brain, modifies social interaction abilities, while in a top down-process, these interactive experiences shape the developing brain networks [5]. As such, emotional functioning occurs in coordination with various processes, including cognitive, sexual, motor and moral development [2]. Each developmental level is associated with specific emotional needs, motivations, and coping skills, which affects a person’s ability to adapt to the environment [6, 7]

The current study normed the SED-S, a scale for the assessment of ED, in a sample of typically developing children, and provides evidence for the criterion validity on item, domain and scale level. The majority of children showed homogenous profiles. Interrater reliability and internal consistency were high.