The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) is a behaviour rating scale that is completed by parents and/or teachers/after-school providers which provides an assessment of social-emotional competencies related to resilience in children aged 5–14.
“An extremely well developed assessment tool, very strong in terms of psychometric properties and standardisation procedures.”
Susana Castro - Senior Lecturer in Education Studies, Roehampton University
Children aged 5-14
The DESSA is used to assess children’s protective factors and identify the social and emotional strengths and needs of a child. Results of the assessment should be used to plan for children's support in their growth and development of social and emotional health.
Raters generally fall into two categories: 1) Parents, Guardians and other Adult Caregivers who live with the child, and 2) Teachers, after-school program staff, or other professionals who interact directly with the child on a regular basis. The assessment items take approximately 10 minutes to complete.
The DESSA contains 72 items in total, forming a Social Emotional Composite score. The subscales are:
- Self-Awareness (7 items): A child's realistic understanding of her/his strengths and limitations and consistent desire for self-improvement
- Social-Awareness (9 items): A child's capacity to interact with others in a way that shows respect for their ideas and behaviours, recognizes her/his impact on them, and uses cooperation and tolerance in social situations.
- Self-Management (11 items): A child's success in controlling his or her emotions and behaviours, to complete a task or succeed in a new or challenging situation.
- Goal-Directed Behaviour (10 items): A child's initiation of, and persistence in completing, tasks of varying difficulty.
- Relationship Skills (10 items): A child's consistent performance of socially acceptable actions that promote and maintain positive connections with others.
- Personal Responsibility (10 items): A child's tendency to be careful and reliable in her/his actions and in contributing to group efforts.
- Decision Making (8 items): A child's approach to problem solving that involves learning from others and from her/his own previous experiences, using values to guide action, and accepting responsibility for decisions.
- Optimistic Thinking (7 items): A child's attitude and confidence, hopefulness, and positive thinking regarding herself/himself and her/his life situations in the past, present and future.
Also available: The DESSA-Mini is a screening tool, providing a brief summary of children's current overall social-emotional competence to determine if additional skill development should be a priority.
Qualification level required:
Level 2. Please see our Test User Qualifications page for guidance
Based on a US sample of 2,494 children aged 5-14 years
The assessment takes approximately 10 minutes