Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)

Explore our child behavior checklist (CBCL) to help understand and manage children's behavior effectively and with care. Nurture your child's growth, and build targeted strategies to reinforce positive actions.

Bernard Ramirez
Bernard Ramirez
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What is the Child Behavior Checklist?

This is a useful report form made by Thomas M. Achenbach. It's also a component of the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA).

ASEBA and CBCL assess children to determine if they have behavioral and emotional problems. The Child Behavior Checklist is a questionnaire component that is filled by parents to check if their child (aged 6-18) has behavioral and emotional problems that impact their way of life.

The Child Behavior Checklist also focuses on the eight empirical syndromes within the clinical range:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anxious/depressed
  • Attention problem
  • Rule-breaking behavior
  • Somatic complaints
  • Social problems
  • Thought problems
  • Withdrawn/depressed

It is important to note that while this checklist provides indicative associations with DSM-related mental health disorders, such as anxiety and ADHD, it is not a diagnostic tool. If needing a diagnosis, please refer to a healthcare professional who can support treatment planning, psychological testing, and assess the child's behavior problems.

Printable Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)

Download this Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and evaluate your child client’s emotional and behavioral health.

How to use the Child Behavior Checklist

Achenbach's Child Behavior Checklist is quite easy to use! The psychologist/health practitioner must issue this to the parent(s) or guardian(s) reporting on their child's potential behavioral and emotional problems.

On the part of the parents/guardians, they need to do the following:

Step 1: Provide general information

General information refers to the child's name, gender, age, birthday, school, demographic information, etc. The person filling out the form will also indicate the job (or the usual jobs) the child's parents/guardians have.

Step 2: List and rate things about the child related to school, chores, and relationships

After the general information section of the checklist, the next part is about what the child likes, what and how they do in school, a little bit about home, and their relationships with people, especially within their age group.

The parent/guardian will list things like the child's favorite hobbies, the sports they like doing, the chores they usually do at home or if they have jobs, etc. They will also rate these by considering how the child does compared to others.

Some segments ask the parent/guardian to describe the child by answering guide questions concerning whether their child has any illnesses or mental health concerns and disabilities, the parents' concerns for the child, and the child's best qualities.

Step 3: Rate the items

The last part of this checklist is a long list of 113 items for the parents/guardians to rate. Some of these items need to be filled with answers.

It has items relating to well being and social competence like the following:

  • Can't get mind off certain thoughts/obsessions: [describe]
  • Bragging/boasting
  • Complains of loneliness

The parent/guardian completing this assessment rates each item with one of the following:

  • 0 = Not true (as far as you know)
  • 1 = Somewhat or sometimes true
  • 2 = Very true or often true

This will give you a total score to compare to other normative data sets.

Step 4: The psychologist will score according to scales

The scoring will not be done on the checklist itself. Once the parent/guardian submits a fully-accomplished checklist, the psychologist will interpret the answers using ASEBA's scoring materials. The results will come in the form of scale measurements.

The results you get using ASEBA's scoring tools should help you create a plan to be discussed with the child's parents/guardians.

Child Behavior Checklist example (sample)

Below is a filled-out Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) sample. Please note this was edited to show what a fully accomplished Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) looks like. This particular assessment is meant to be printed, and no fillable digital version is available.

Download this Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) example (sample) here:

Child Behavior Checklist Example (Sample)

When would you typically use the Child Behavior Checklist?

The Child Behavior Checklist is normally issued when the parent/guardian of a child sets up an appointment with you because they suspect their child might have behavioral and/or emotional problems. It is also typically issued during your appointment.

It normally takes 15-20 minutes to complete. Of course, the parent/guardian can take home the checklist if they need to think long and hard about their answers and ratings.

This can also be used alongside other psychological instruments to help those with ADHD, anxiety, or oppositional defiant disorder. The CBCL provides a more comprehensive picture of these conditions and can be used for additional support, such as an outcomes assessment.

Who can use the Child Behavior Checklist?

The following healthcare practitioners can use the CBCL for their respective practices:

  • Clinical psychologists
  • Mental health therapists
  • Counselors
  • Public health agencies
  • Training programs
  • Research center

What are the benefits of using the Child Behavior Checklist?

Parents/guardians can make more insightful reflections

Just because they have suspicions of their child having behavioral and emotional problems doesn't necessarily mean that they've taken the time to reflect on the different aspects of their child.‍

The Child Behavior Checklist asks the parent/guardian to think about their child in terms of how they're doing in school, what they are like around other children, what they love doing, what sports they like, how they fare in doing things compared to others, how they respond to certain things, and what their disposition is.‍

They will only be able to truly answer the checklist if they stop and think about their child's behaviors objectively.

Psychologists and practitioners can develop effective plans

Because it's comprehensive, psychologists can take the answers from fully accomplished checklists and use ASEBA's scoring tools to interpret the findings. They'll be able to look at things from different angles, like depression, anxiety, attention problems, social problems, and more!‍

With comprehensive findings, they can develop a plan for the parents/guardians and their child that covers different aspects of their life to prevent suspected behavioral and emotional problems from worsening and work to make things better and ensure the child is well-adjusted and confident. Best of all, this CBCL is a free PDF that does not require extensive knowledge to use.

Why use Carepatron for psychology software?

Here at Carepatron, we care about helping healthcare practitioners improve productivity and efficiency, especially when streamlining their clinical documentation. By taking advantage of our easy-to-navigate EHR system, you'll gain access to a wide variety of guides concerning psychotherapy and counseling, such as this one for ASEBA's Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)!‍

Our guides will help you understand particular tools and make it easier for you to use them for your practice!‍

You can even scan a fully-accomplished Child Behavior Checklist and store it in a HIPAA-compliant manner via our platform, as well as secure it by setting up who can access it besides you. This also makes it easily accessible anytime, anywhere, whether using an office desktop, a laptop, or even just a phone!

Convenience. Accessibility. Security. You get all three with Carepatron.

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When is the best time to use the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)?
When is the best time to use the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)?

Commonly asked questions

When is the best time to use the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)?

As soon as parents/guardians meet up with you about suspected behavioral and emotional problems in their child, please issue the Child Behavior Checklist to them immediately. They can answer on the spot, as completing it only takes 15-20 minutes. Or, they can take it home if they wish to think more about their answers.

Is this checklist really only designed for print?

While this is designed for print, it is also acceptable to use electronically. Print is preferred; however, if online documents are your preference, feel free to download this CBCL and optimize it electronically.

How do I go about scoring the answers on a fully-accomplished sheet?

Once you receive a fully accomplished sheet from a parent/guardian and want to interpret the information, you may refer to ASEBA for the scoring materials. They have the materials you need to interpret your findings best.

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