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25 August 2016

The Data and Analytics Section of UNICEF NYHQ and the Washington Group on Disability Statistics (WG) have been working since 2011 on a survey module on child functioning for use in surveys and censuses.


In line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the International Classification of Functioning for Children and Youth (ICF-CY), the module is intended to provide an estimate of the number/proportion of children with functional difficulties. These functional difficulties may place children at risk of experiencing limited participation in an unaccommodating environment.

The survey module collects data on children age 2 to 17 years, varying questions based on the age group of children, a reflection of different developmental stages. The module assesses functional difficulties in the domains of speech and language, hearing, vision, learning, mobility and motor skills, and emotions. In line with the bio-psychosocial model of disability, the module focuses on the presence and extent of functional difficulties rather than on body function and structure or conditions, i.e. causes of those difficulties. The module is not intended as a diagnostic tool and cannot be used for assessing impairments in individual children.


Activities to-date

Cognitive testing

The module has undergone five rounds of cognitive testing. The first round of testing was conducted in the United States, India, Oman, Belize and Montenegro between September 2012 and July 2013. The second round of testing was conducted in the United States in January 2014, and the third round of testing was conducted in the United States in August 2014. The module was again cognitively tested for the fourth time in the USA in August 2015. The revised version of the module underwent the fifth and final round of cognitive testing in the USA in February 2016, India in March 2016, and Jamaica in April 2016. In particular, the main goals of the tests were to assess respondents’ interpretation of the survey questions and identify potential response problems that could impact data quality. An independent cognitive test was also conducted in 2015 in South Africa by the national statistical office of South Africa (Statistics South Africa) to test the linguistic and cultural applicability of the module in the South African context.


Independent field testing

In addition to cognitive testing, the early versions of the module have undergone field testing in a few settings, including in Italy (by the NSO in 2013), Cameroon and India (by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in 2013 and 2014), India (by the NGO ADAPT in 2014),  and Samoa (by the NSO in 2014).


Field testing by UNICEF and the WG- Serbia

Based on prior work, the module was adapted and then field tested in Serbia with the assistance of the MICS team and in collaboration with the UNICEF Serbia Country Office and the CEE/CIS Regional Office. The test was implemented in the first quarter of 2016 and included 2,915 interviews. Further to field testing, the performance of the module was compared with that of the Ten Question Screening tool on Disability (TQ) that has been used in MICS in previous rounds between 2000 and 2010 and the WG Short Set of Questions developed by the WG for the adult population. One of the goals of the field test was to identify possible challenges during the field work. Extensive feedback was sought from the field teams throughout the data collection. Findings from the qualitative survey on the module performance show that the questionnaire was generally administered without significant issues and respondent reactions were mostly neutral to positive. Results will be made public through journal publication.


Field testing as part of MICS- Belize

The module was included as part of the Belize field test for MICS in November/December 2015. The purpose of this test was to assess how the module operates within a MICS framework and within a larger survey tool. The field test showed several issues. The first is that the repetition of response categories caused considerable respondent and interviewer fatigue. The test also revealed that respondents often answered questions pre-emptively and did so using binary responses, rather than scaled responses as intended. Several questions related to emotions and behaviours elicited a great deal of clarification and probing on the part of the interviewers. These findings were shared with the WG/UNICEF collaborators.


Field testing in the global MICS pilot- Costa Rica

Following consultations, the module was improved as per results from Belize and other sources, in particular the Serbia experience. The improved module was fielded in the MICS6 global pilot in Costa Rica. The module presented the response categories at the beginning of the module and these were only repeated by the interviewer if the respondent did not answer using these categories. The MICS Pilot version was administered to all 2-4 year olds, but just one selected child per household age 5-17 years. Some additional structural improvements and grouping of questions according to type of response categories were also included.


Future activities

The module, interviewer’s instructions and tabulation plan are expected to be ready for release in MICS6 in the third quarter of 2016.