Pros and cons of child behavior checklists

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Parents and teachers sometimes use a child behaviour checklist to identify problems by answering a series of statements using a Likert scale: 0 = not true, 1 = somewhat true, 2 = very true. There two types of these checklists, one for preschool, ages 1½ to 5, and another for children ages 6 to 18.

There are pluses and minuses to using these checklists.


The first and main advantage to a child behaviour checklist is the ease with which anyone can answer the statements -- parents, teachers, counsellors or even the child. Once the checklist is completed, is it easy to compare the results of the 100 questions with a chart outlined by a psychotherapist. It would be more beneficial for the teacher or parent to have a psychotherapist assisting them; however, this is not essential.


Checklists and rating scale systems have the advantage of being applicable to more than one child at one time. A teacher can use such a system to monitor a group of children in the classroom over a period of time or during a lesson with relative ease and speed.


A child behaviour checklist also has significant and noteworthy disadvantages. Teachers or parents are limited to the specified traits and behavioural patterns outlined in the statements, which can lead to categorising children to fit the checklist. This, in turn, can limit the information such a checklist can provide. If a child's behaviour is not on the statement list or is caused by a stimulus not considered in the checklist, then the information will not be entirely accurate.


One major disadvantage to a child behaviour checklist is that it is subject to and reliant on the observer's interpretation of behaviours or events. If the parent, teacher or child is not impartial, then judgment will be skewed, rendering the checklist unreliable.