The Child Behavior Checklist, or CBCL, is one of the most commonly used questionnaires in child psychology. The survey is done through a parent's report and can either be self-administered by the parent or administered by an interviewer. The CBCL is considered an accurate measure for assessing behavioural and emotional functioning in children ages 2 through 18. The CBCL consists of 118 items related to behavioural problems, which measure different subcategories of the child's behavioural and emotional well-being.
Aggressive and Delinquent Behaviors
Items referring to behavioural problems such as destructiveness and aggression refer to areas that are considered externalising behaviours. This includes behaviours such as hurting animals, getting in fights with other kids, bullying, setting fires, destroying property, losing his temper and being disobedient at home or school. These items also include content related to emotional states, such as feelings of anger and rage as well as lack of guilt after misbehaving.
The items that relate to social competency also refer to areas that are considered externalising behaviours. Items ask about social withdrawal and other social problems. Specific items in this category ask about the child's participation in sports, hobbies, games, clubs, jobs and chores. They also ask about the quality of the child's friendships and how well she gets along with and plays with others and her social behaviour at school.
Anxiety and Depression
The scale uses specific items to assess what behaviours are considered internalising behaviours, such as feelings of depression and anxiety. These items are specifically meant to look for the presence of psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety disorders as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Pediatric Bipolar Disorder.
Questions on the checklist relate to feelings of depression and anxiety, behaviours of withdrawal and self-isolation, nightmares and feelings of paranoia.
Attention and Thought
The scale uses these items to assess externalising behaviours, such as hyperactivity and noncompliance. Checklist items include inability to sit still, restlessness and hyperactivity, including inability to concentrate or pay attention and his level of impulsivity. It also includes questions about whether the child is unable to get his mind off of certain thoughts and if he has obsessions. Questions on the checklist regarding daydreaming and if the child appears to be in a fog are also meant to measure thought process and attention.
These items on the scale assess internalising behaviours. Somatic symptoms are physical problems without a known medical cause and may indicate a behavioural or emotional problem. The checklist asks about somatic complaints, including overeating, undereating, problems with sleep and lack of energy. Questions also ask about complaints that the child may have expressed regarding aches, pains, headaches, nausea, feeling generally sick, eye sight and rashes that haven't been connected to a known medical cause.
- "Psychological Assessment," Assessment of Dysregulated Children Using the Child Behavior Checklist: A Receiver Operating Characteristic Curve Analysis; Robert R. Althoff, Lynsay A. Ayer, David C. Rettew and James J. Hudziak; 2010.
- Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research: Child Behavior Checklist
- NOVA Southeastern University: Child Behavior Checklist
- U.S. Department of Justice: Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods