Is the MDAT

right for you?

What the MDAT measures

Professor Gladstone experienced working in the clinical setting in Malawi, early in her career.  She recognized the lack of tools to measure child development in a simple, cheap, culturally specific way for children from 0-5 years.  With no clear knowledge as to what was normal for children’s development in Malawi or elsewhere in Africa, it was not possible to track children’s developmental trajectories at an individual, programmatic or population level. Identifying delayed developmental trajectories enables the appropriate support to be provided.

In response, Dr Gladstone has worked over the past twenty years to address this. Her first detailed study was in 2006 [1] and further qualitative studies aimed to unravel the understanding and conceptual framework of child development by parents and children in Malawi, to enable a tool to be created that was relevant to children living in Malawi [2].

The resulting MDAT was robustly validated  and evaluated with known developmental delay vs normal children. Population based age-bands for developmental milestones were created for 1446 children from 0-6 years. The research was published in a high-impact open-access journal in 2010 [3].

What you need to use the MDAT

The MDAT requires some training but it can be used by anyone with a high school education. The questionnaire comes with pictures and there are videos which can be provided for training to help you conduct the assessment. 

It is inexpensive to use, open access and does not require you to buy an expensive kit to conduct the assessments.

The MDAT takes approx. 30-40 minutes to complete depending on the age of the child.

How it can help children

Designed for children aged 0-5, it can help identify those with neurodisabilities or delayed development.

Global Influence of the MDAT

How MDAT supports the well being of vulnerable children across the globe, who uses MDAT, and how is it supported.


Information about who can use the tool, what’s important for researchers and what the training involves.

What the MDAT measure – References:

1. Gladstone, M., Lancaster, G., Jones, A., Maleta, K., Mtitimila, E., Ashorn, P. & Smyth, R. L. 2008. Can Western developmental screening tools be modified for use in a rural Malawian setting? Archives of Diseases of Childhood, 93, 23-29.doi: 10.1136/adc.2006.095471
2. Gladstone, M., Lancaster, G., Umar, E., Nyirenda, M., Kayira, E., Van Den Broek, N. & Smyth, R. L. 2010a. Perspectives of normal child development in rural Malawi – a qualitative analysis to create a more culturally appropriate developmental assessment tool. Child Care Health Dev, 36, 346-53.doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2009.01008.x
3. Gladstone, M., Lancaster, G. A., Umar, E., Nyirenda, M., Kayira, E., Van Den Broek, N. R. & Smyth, R. L. 2010b. The Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool (MDAT): the creation, validation, and reliability of a tool to assess child development in rural African settings. PLoS Med, 7, e1000273. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000273