“The context and development of the early relational health screen”

Author: David W. Willis
Infant Mental Health Journal May 10, 2022

Early relational experiences are key drivers for developing social emotional capacities, educational achievement, mental health, physical health, and overall wellbeing. The child health sectors are committed to promotion, prevention, and early intervention that optimize children’s health and development, often employing evidence-based screening as foundational practices. Despite a variety of validated parent-infant observational assessment tools, few are practical within busy practice settings, acceptable with all racial and ethnic groups and ready for universal adoption.

In response to this need, a team of clinicians, early childhood educators, researchers and infant mental health specialists collaborated to develop and test a novel video-based, dyadic relational screening and monitoring tool, the Early Relational Health Screen (ERHS). This tool uniquely focuses on the early parent-child relationship (6–24 months), within the construct of early relational health (ERH). Initial testing demonstrated that the ERHS is a valid, reliable, feasible, and useful screening and monitoring tool for clinical applications.

The ERHS was further developed within a population-based, prospective research study and adapted with brief video feedback for parents in the home visiting and child health sectors. The ERHS and its adaptations appear to advance ERH and equity within the transforming child health and public health care systems of today.