Objective. To determine the proportion of children aged 10 to 35 months who were reported ever to have received a developmental assessment (DA) and to examine characteristics of the child, family, and health care setting associated with the receipt of a DA.
Methods. The National Survey of Early Childhood Health, conducted in 2000, is a survey of 2068 parents of children 4 to 35 months of age. Children were classified as having received a DA in response to 2 questions: whether the child’s pediatric provider ever told parents that he or she was doing a “developmental assessment” and/or parents recalled explicit components of a DA, such as stacking blocks or throwing a ball. Parent-reported receipt of a DA was assessed in relationship to child and family, health care access, other measures of health care content and process, and measures of quality and satisfaction.
Results. Approximately 57% of children 10 to 35 months of age ever received a DA. Forty-two percent of parents recalled ever being told by their child’s pediatric provider that a DA was being done. Thirty-nine percent recalled their child’s being asked to perform specific tasks routinely included in a DA. Bivariate analysis indicates that receipt of a DA is not associated with child or family sociodemographic characteristics such as maternal education and household income, with the exception of race/ethnicity. Less acculturated Hispanic parents reported a DA more frequently than parents in other racial/ethnic groups (66% vs 56%). A smaller proportion of parents whose children who used community health centers reported their child’s ever having received a DA compared with children who use other settings (51% vs 60%). Compared with other children, parents whose child ever received a DA reported more frequently than other parents that the time spent with the child’s provider during the last well-child visit was adequate (94% vs 80%). They also reported longer visits (19 minutes vs 16 minutes), higher family-centered care ratings (mean: 71 vs 59), and higher satisfaction with well-child care (8.9 vs 8.4). Receipt of a DA is also associated with the content of developmentally focused anticipatory guidance received. For each health supervision topic analyzed, frequency of discussion is higher for children who ever received a DA. In multivariate analysis, odds of receiving a DA are higher for children with longer visits with the provider (odds ratio: 1.03; 95% confidence interval: 1.01–1.05) and lower for children in community health clinics compared with a private office (odds ratio: 0.61; 95% confidence interval: 0.39–0.96), even accounting for total well-child visits to the pediatric provider.
Conclusion. Although guidelines endorse the routine provision of DAs, parents of many children do not report receiving DAs. Children who receive assessments are more likely to receive other developmental services, and their parents are more likely to report greater satisfaction with care and rate the interpersonal quality of well-child care more favorably. The substantial number of children who do not receive these routinely recommended services raises important questions about the quality of care received.