Pediatric Symptom Checklist

Understand how to use the Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC) and get access to a free PDF template.

By Ericka Pingol on Jul 15, 2024.

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Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is a Pediatric Symptom Checklist?

Pediatric emotional and physical health are two essential parts of childhood development, requiring careful nurturing and monitoring throughout childhood and adolescence. In developmental and behavioral pediatrics, emotionally healthy children can cope better with the challenges of growing up and developing into adults. This includes recognizing and understanding their feelings, forming positive relationships, managing stress, and problem-solving.

Given that emotional and behavioral health problems are not always readily visible, it can be challenging to assess mental health and development. To help support mental health and behavioral health screening, the pediatric symptom checklist (PSC) was devised to assess the emotional health of children.

The PSC stems from the pediatric screening questionnaire, a well-established resource that has been utilized for over 30 years to screen children for possible mental and behavioral problems. This resource lists items designed to reflect mental and behavioral health, which are added to produce a total score. These scores are typically presented as either positive scores or outside of the cutoff scores, from which health practitioners such as a child psychiatrist or mental health professional can devise a mental health treatment plan to address any concerns.

By using the PSC, health care professionals and mental health services have an effective resource to assess children's physical and emotional health. With this valuable insight, healthcare services can identify children experiencing difficulties in psychosocial functioning, behavioral health, and mental or emotional health. This will likely inform more effective treatments to support pediatric patients better, making it an invaluable tool for healthcare providers.

Pediatric Symptom Checklist Template

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Pediatric Symptom Checklist Example

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How does it work?

The printable Pediatric Symptom Checklist asks patients, parents, or guardians to mark how often a child exhibits certain behaviors and experiences. The checklist contains 35 questions to help healthcare providers assess a child's emotional health. Here's how to use this template:

Step One: Download the PSC

Get a copy our free Pediatric Symptoms Checklist here, or download a PDF version for a physical copy by following the link below:

Download our free printable Pediatric Symptom Checklist PDF here.

Step Two: Give the patient, guardian, or parent a copy

Explain the purpose of the questionnaire and provide instructions on how to fill it out. Make sure to answer any questions they may have before proceeding to the next step.

Step Three: Patient, parent, or guardian completes the checklist

Ask your patient, their parent, or guardian to complete the PSC, checking off boxes for each of the 35 items. It's important to remember that this is a screening tool and not a diagnostic tool.

Step Four: Review the answers with your patient

Discuss the results of the PSC with your patient and their guardian or parent. This will help you determine if further action needs to be taken to properly assess and treat the child.

Step Five: Follow up with an additional assessment

Based on the PSC results, you may recommend further assessments or tests to gain insight into the child's health. This could include a psychological evaluation, psychosocial screening, educational testing, or medical imaging exams.

Pediatric Symptom Checklist scoring

Once the PSC is completed, the total score can be determined by assigning zero, one, or two points to each of its 35 items. A score of 28 or higher is considered at-risk and indicates that further assessment is needed (Jellinek et al., 1999; Murphy et al., 2016).

However, it should be noted that different patient populations have been the subject of other studies supporting alternative cutoff points. Ultimately, healthcare professionals must consider all relevant research when interpreting PSC results.

When would you use this template?

The Pediatric Symptom Checklist is most useful when screening children aged 4-18 for mental health issues. It can be used in primary care or psychiatric settings, as well as in school and home settings. You can also use this template to:

Help assess the severity of a child's mental health symptoms

The PSC template can help determine if a child is at risk for specific mental health problems, such as depression. It can also gauge the severity of symptoms and guide how to best intervene with treatment.

Identify potential triggers of mental health issues

The PSC template can help identify specific things that may contribute to or cause-specific mental health issues, such as anxiety. Common triggers can range from family dynamics and stress, to medical conditions and substance use. By identifying potential triggers, it is possible to better understand the cause of the child's symptoms and intervene accordingly.

Monitor changes in the mental health of the child over time

By regularly using the Pediatric Symptom Checklist, you can track changes in the child's mental health symptoms and adjust treatment accordingly.

Track the effectiveness of treatments

The PSC template is also helpful for monitoring the effectiveness of mental health interventions and treatments. Tracking scores on the checklist over time makes it possible to gauge how well a treatment is working or if changes in treatment are needed.

Benefits of free Pediatric Symptom Checklist

Here are the advantages of using this fully digital and printable PSC template:

It's easy to use and saves time

The Pediatric Symptom Checklist template is designed to save time for clinicians, teachers, and parents. The electronic version saves time entering data, and results can be quickly checked by comparing different results over time.

It provides accurate results

This template is based on extensive research, providing reliable and accurate results. As a result, you can use the information obtained to make informed decisions about children's mental health.

It's extremely versatile

You can administer the Pediatric Symptom Checklist in a variety of settings. It can be administered at home, school, or even during doctor's appointments. You can also use this to screen for mental health issues in children of all ages.

It provides better insights into mental health issues

By tracking changes over time, the PSC template helps to provide better insights into what is causing certain mental health issues in children and how best to intervene. This makes it easier for you and the child's parents or guardians to make informed decisions about their care and treatment.

References

Jellinek MS, Murphy JM, Robinson J, Feins A, Lamb S, Fenton T. Pediatric Symptom Checklist: screening school-age children for psychosocial dysfunction. J Pediatr. 1988 Feb;112(2):201-9. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(88)80056-8. PMID: 3339501. 

Massachusetts General Hospital. (n.d.). Pediatric Symptom Checklist. Retrieved July 11, 2023, from https://www.massgeneral.org/psychiatry/treatments-and-services/pediatric-symptom-checklist 

Murphy JM, Bergmann P, Chiang C, Sturner R, Howard B, Abel MR, Jellinek M. The PSC-17: Subscale Scores, Reliability, and Factor Structure in a New National Sample. Pediatrics. 2016 Sep;138(3):e20160038. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-0038. Epub 2016 Aug 12. PMID: 27519444; PMCID: PMC5005018.

Who uses the Pediatric Symptom Checklist?
Who uses the Pediatric Symptom Checklist?

Commonly asked questions

Who uses the Pediatric Symptom Checklist?

Healthcare professionals, teachers, and parents use the Pediatric Symptom Checklist to screen for psychological and behavioral problems in children. It can be used for children of all ages to assess their mental health status.

When do you use the Pediatric Symptom Checklist?

The Pediatric Symptom Checklist is used to screen for psychological and behavioral problems in children. It can be used when a child's mental health needs to be evaluated, such as during regular check-ups or after periods of stress or trauma.

How is the Pediatric Symptom Checklist used?

The Pediatric Symptom Checklist is a 35-item questionnaire that can be completed by the child, parents, or healthcare professionals. It is used to identify possible psychological and behavioral problems in children. The items cover a range of behavioral issues such as aggression, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues.

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