5 Effective Strategies for Using the Child Behavior Checklist

What is the child behavior checklist, and what does it measure?

According to the National Library of Medicine, “The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL; Achenbach & Rescorla 2001), now called the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment, is a parent report form to screen for emotional, behavioral, and social problems.”

The questions asked on the test are associated with eight syndromes:

  • Anxious/Depressed
  • Withdrawn/Depressed
  • Somatic Complaints
  • Social Problems
  • Thought Problems
  • Attention Problems
  • Rule Breaking Behavior
  • Aggressive Behavior

Parents and/or teachers fill out the test based on their observations of the child. Then the test is graded by a professional on a scale that measures whether a child has:

  • Depressive Problems
  • Anxiety Problems
  • Somatic Problems
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Problems
  • Oppositional Defiant Problems
  • Conduct Problems

If the child’s score exceeds the average, the test will also indicate if the problems are considered normal, borderline, or critical. (Source: aseba.org and parenting.firstcry.com)

How can this assessment tool be implemented in a classroom setting?

The child behavior checklist doesn’t take very long to administer (10-20 minutes), and the scores can be tabulated fairly quickly (10 minutes). Still, it can provide valuable insight to caregivers and teachers and influence a child’s social and educational success. Here are 5 effective strategies parents and teachers can consider using the child behavior checklist.

1. Use ASEBA in a timely manner.

The best application of this test is as soon as a parent or teacher notices a child struggling. For example, if a student has difficulty focusing or sitting still in class, administering this test as soon as possible can help determine if the child has ADD (attention deficit disorder) and needs treatment for it.

2. Avoid overthinking the test.

Is this test really necessary? While the ASEBA (Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment) can sound intimidating to parents and caregivers, it is a helpful tool that is used to gauge where student(s) are emotionally and socially, as well as ascertain whether or not a child may benefit from a more specialized education. If a child is struggling in school, the loving thing to do is not to ignore their struggle but rather get to the root of the issue and help them be the best they can be.

3. Do not administer the test too often.

According to aseba.org, “If you do not change the instruction, you should not administer the CBCL/6-18 more frequently than every 6 months. If you do, the parent may report behavior from overlapping periods.” If you need to give the test more often, see the ASEBA website for more information on changing the test.

4. Try not to blame low scores on yourself.

If a child scores low on the test, parents and teachers alike may feel like this is somehow their fault. Parents/caregivers, your child’s test results do not directly indicate how well you care for your child! Additionally, teachers, be careful as you interpret the results of the ASEBA. You may need to make changes to the way you teach a child, but that doesn’t mean your current teaching methods are wrong or inferior.

5. Understand that the test is a diagnostic tool only.

Teachers and parents will have to work together to devise practical solutions to whatever the results indicate. Additionally, if the test indicates the presence of a disorder, the child’s doctor should be involved in the conversation as well so that he or she is aware and can help formulate a treatment plan.

Do you still have questions about the child behavior checklist? Feel free to email us at [email protected] or call us at 205-647-6861. We would love to connect and answer any questions or concerns you may have!