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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 1, No. 4
Summer 1996

What is the Child Behavior Checklist?

The Child Behavior Checklist is a 118-item questionnaire to be answered by parents, teachers, and other caregivers about children between ages five and sixteen. Designed by Thomas Achenbach, the purposes of the checklist are to determine what services are appropriate for a particular child, list the types of problems a child is having, and track changes in response to interventions. Questions create three types of behavior scales:

1. Internalizing scales - depression/withdrawal, anxiety, or somaticizing behaviors

2. Externalizing scales - cruel, aggressive, and delinquent behaviors

3. Mixed scales - documenting other problem behaviors such as immaturity or hyperactivity.

Items name a certain type of behavior (e.g., "bites fingernails", "gets teased a lot", "cruel to animals", "behaves like the opposite sex") and parents or caregivers are then asked to indicate whether this is not true, somewhat or sometimes true, or very often true about their child. They may also be asked to indicate the frequency of behaviors.

The checklist has been extensively tested, and norms exist for a variety of populations. The questionnaire can be quickly hand-scored by adding various items together and takes about fifteen minutes for a caregiver to complete. It is one of the most widely used instruments in children's mental health.


Achenbach, T. (1991). Child Behavior Checklist. Univ. of Vermont.

Magura, S., & Moses, B. S. (1986). Outcome Measures for Child Welfare Services: Theory and Applications. Washington, D.C.: Child Welfare League of America, Inc.

1996 Jordan Institute for Families