Child Functioning

Question Sets

Below are the two question sets (one for ages 2-4 and one for ages 5-17) and also links to a downloadable document containing them.

Child functioning for Children Under Age 5

Child Functioning for Children Age 5 to 17

Rationale and Principles for Questions on Child Functioning

While the Short Set questions can identify many children with functional difficulties, the WG determined a special set devoted to measuring child functioning was needed to improve and expand upon that identification, and to address the aspects of child development not addressed in previous methods.

Therefore, in partnership with UNICEF, the Washington Group developed a set of survey questions for identifying children with disabilities. An article describing the rationale for the need for a new child functioning survey module and the methods undertaken to develop it can be found here.

The Child Functioning Module can be used as a component of national population surveys or as supplements to surveys on specific topics of interest. As with other WG question sets, disability is defined as difficulty undertaking basic activities. As such, the work draws upon the previously developed WG question sets for adults.

The Child Functioning Module was designed to do the following:

  • Expand the Functional Domains for Children. The distribution of types of disability are different for children compared with adults. In adults, the major problems are mobility, sensory, and personal care – especially with advancing years. In children the main disabilities are related to intellectual functioning, affect and behaviour.
  • Incorporate a fuller age range. The reference age is 2-17 years. The workgroup decided it was not feasible to capture disabilities among children under 2 years of age through population surveys. There are different question sets for children age 2-4 and those age 5-17.
  • Recognize the Range of Disability. Answer categories were designed to reflect the continuum of functional difficulties with the ability to determine appropriate cut-offs based on the requirements for the disability data collection. 
  • Identify age-appropriate difficulties. For reference and to focus the respondent on the functioning of their own child in reference to that child’s cohort, where appropriate, questions are prefaced with the clause: “Compared with children of the same age…”.
  • Rely on Proxy Respondents. Due to the standard methodology of survey administration, the ethical considerations of interviewing children, and the inability of young children to answer these types of questions reliably, the group decided that the questions would be designed for the children’s mother or primary caregivers.
  • Preserve International Comparability. The aim of the questions is to provide comparable data cross-nationally.
  • Follow Rigorous Standards of Development. Questions were designed in consultation with a wide range of experts. This included survey statisticians, paediatricians, developmental psychologists, speech therapists etc. Questions were then validated through cognitive and field testing, following established WG procedures.


B. Altman (Ed), International Measurement of Disability: Purpose, Method and Application. Springer: Social Indicators Research Series 61

  1. The Challenges of Conducting National Surveys of Disability among Children by Howard Meltzer
  2. Cognitive Analysis on Survey Questions for Identifying Out-of-School Children with Disabilities in India, by Daniel Mont, , Sathi Alur, , Mitchell Loeb, and Kristen Miller.
  3. Building  a “Module on Child Functioning and Disability” by Roberta Crialesi, Elena De Palma, Alessandra Battisti.


Coming soon – results of Samoa and Serbia Field Testing