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The PEERS Standardisation Study

The Pediatric Evaluation of Emotions, Relationships and Socialization (PEERS) tool is a way to assess, describe and diagnose social impairment in children and young people. In this research study we want to find out if the PEERS iPad application is a useful way to identify children who need help in developing social skills.

We plan to assess social skills in two groups of children. In the first group, we hope 1500 healthy children aged 4-18 years old who attend mainstream public or private Victorian schools will take part. In the second group, we hope 225 children who have a known diagnosis where social impairment is a core symptom (autistic spectrum disorder, ADHD, conduct disorders, acquired brain injury and chronic illnesses) will also take part.

While diagnosis of social impairment has become an area of significant importance, progress is hindered by a lack of comprehensive, theoretically driven, developmentally appropriate, ecologically valid tools. PEERS provides a unique opportunity to fill this breach by providing a tool that meets each of these criteria and represents a major advance in psychological testing, as it:

  • utilises technological advances in information technology software and hardware (tablet devices, touch screens), moving assessment techniques into the 21st century.
  • incorporates methods that are attractive to young people and simulate the real world, optimizing the likelihood of emotional engagement, motivation and participation.
  • provides professionals with a convenient, low cost, easy to interpret assessment tool.
  • provides an immediate and comprehensive ‘social profile’ for young people.

PEERS will be a valuable resource across a variety of sectors: health, mental health, education and employment. It will be relied upon for the assessment of social skills in the ‘healthy’ population, and in young people where concerns regarding mental illness arise, and across school, hospital, private practice and community settings.


Pediatric Evaluation of Emotions, Relationships and Socialization-Questionnaire

PEERS-Q (a questionnaire completed by parents, teachers and children > 12 years) provides information regarding: 1) mediators of social function–developmental stage, brain integrity, personal attributes and environment; and 2) social outcomes–social adjustment, competence, participation. PEERS-Q is developed and piloted and is currently being validated (Muscara et al., 2010). Initial piloting involved: 1) compilation of items with face validity for tapping social skills; 2) focus groups with health professionals; 3) completion of parent ratings across the target age range; 4) categorization of items into ‘subscales’ (Table 1).

Table 1. PEERS-Q Subscales

SUBSCALENature of items
Behaviourexternalizing vs. internalizing behaviours
Psychological problemsdepression, anxiety
Participationloneliness, withdrawal, home/community/ school participation
Personality/temperamentshyness vs. extraversion
Physical appearanceheight, weight, disabilities
General questionsnumber of friends, regular activities, social opportunities