Evaluation of the Child Status Index Tool: A Validation Study in Malawi

Project Description

The Child Status Index (CSI) was envisioned as a simple yet comprehensive tool to measure child welfare in low-resource settings. Developed by MEASURE Evaluation at the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina, it aims to respond to the ongoing effort by U.S. government agencies to improve the systematic assessment of the needs of children and their households in the developing world. The CSI was designed to measure child welfare in six dimensions, including food and nutrition, shelter and care, child protection, health, psychosocial issues, and education. The tool was made available to community-based organizations in various countries to assess the needs of the children they serve and to help determine appropriate assistance programs and activities.

Testing an instrument such as the CSI in a number of settings helps to determine its usefulness in yielding accurate information and informing appropriate decision making regarding the well-being of children. Under Boston University’s OVC-CARE project, the CGHD provided an independent, external assessment of the validity of the CSI tool in a specific country-context: Malawi. Prior to the evaluation, there had been limited rigorous evaluation of the CSI’s ability to generate valid information regarding the type and degree of vulnerability that children face.

The goal of this study was to evaluate the ability of the CSI tool to assess the well-being of children. To do so, we developed two instruments comprised of previously validated tools and indicators commonly considered best practice and administered them to 202 children aged 5–17 years in Mchinji, Malawi, who had recently been scored using the CSI tool. For each of the CSI’s 12 sub-domains, we compared the two sets of data to assess the validity of the CSI scores. We found that no relationships exceeded the standard for high construct validity and only two were above a weak relationship, both for the younger group aged 5–10 years: food security and wellness. Most concerning, the CSI did not adequately recognize or identify children as being in severe distress. In the abuse and exploitation sub-domain, for example, all children were rated as “good” or “fair” by the CSI, but among surveyed children aged 11–17, 20 percent or more reported being beaten, kicked, locked out of the house, threatened with abandonment, cursed, and made to feel ashamed. We concluded that in this rural Malawi population, we were unable to validate the CSI as a tool for assessing the vulnerabilities of OVC and recommended caution in interpreting CSI scores and revisions to the tool, followed by further validation research.

This project is one activity of the CGHD’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children—Comprehensive Action Research project (OVC-CARE).

Project Details

Principal Investigator Candace Miller
Boston University Co-Investigators Lora Sabin
  • Centre for Social Research, University of Malawi
Country(ies) Malawi
Dates of Research 2009–2010