A child behavior checklist for preschool

Written by hannah wahlig
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A child behavior checklist for preschool
The Child Behavior Checklist identifies problem behaviour in preschool or school-age students. (little preschooler image by Renata Osinska from Fotolia.com)

Although it is normal for children to achieve developmental milestones at slightly different ages, the Child Behavior Checklist developed by Thomas M. Achenbach provides a quantifiable method of identifying deviant behaviour in preschool students. A teacher, care provider or parent scores the child on six internal and external behavioural categories. Scores are then evaluated by a doctor, psychologist or teacher to determine whether medical or educational intervention is needed.

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A preschooler's anxiety is measured in both externalised and internalised behaviours. For example, a teacher may rate the frequency of crying after a child is dropped off at school or the child's attachment to adult aides in the classroom. The anxiety rating also evaluates the degree to which a child is overly sensitive, self-conscious or shy. Anxiety is often used in the diagnosis of temperament disorders such as post-traumatic stress syndrome or separation anxiety.


A preschooler's developing social skills are key indicators for disorders such as autism and Asperger's syndrome. Sociability is evaluated through a student's degree of comfortable interaction with same-age peers. Observable behaviours such as eye contact or reactions to affection also indicate a child's degree of social development. Emotional indicators such as the presence of guilt or remorse are also included in sociability observations.


Sleep disruptions not only impact the emotional and cognitive state of a preschooler but also indicate potential somatic and physical disorders such as post-traumatic stress, depression and ADHD. Parents are the best resources for noting the frequency of bed wetting and nightmares, though observing children during nap time may also reveal these behaviours. Other sleep behaviours to investigate include oversleeping and the inability to sleep alone through the night.

Physical Ailments

Physical discomfort is one of the most common symptoms of medical problems such as Chron's disease and meningitis, but unexplained pains are also potential indicators for psychosomatic problems such as autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Observe the frequency of ailments such as headaches, stomachaches and muscle pains as well as changes in eating habits and digestion. Most physical complaints can be explained by a physical condition such as a vision impairment or food allergy. But if underlying causes are ruled out, such behaviours are likely an extension of a psychological condition.


Aggressive behaviour is a concern for teachers because it typically extends from a more serious psychological issue such as autism, mental disability or oppositional defiance disorder. Children should be observed for the degree to which they are demanding or easily aggravated by small changes in routines. Excessive whining or screaming for attention are also considered factors in determining aggressive behaviours.

Destructive Behavior

Destructive behaviour is typically indicative of a mood or personality disorder such as opposition disorder or manic-depressive disorder. Many of these destructive behaviours are externalised, such as in cruelty to animals or obsessive rocking or hair pulling. Children who demonstrate destructive behaviour often delight in destroying their own belongings or the belongings of other children. Eating nonfood items such as crayons, dirt and chalk is also considered destructive behaviour.

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