Child Behavior Checklist Overview

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The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) was created by the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA). The 15-minute checklist evaluates the behavior and social competency of children. Parents, other caregivers and others invested in a child's life, such as teachers, may complete the CBCL for a child.


In addition to asking about specific behavior problems, such as stealing, cruelty, dependency and emotions, the test also asks parents and others invested in the child about activities the child is interested in and how he interacts with others. For each item on the test, parents must determine whether the item is "not true (as far as you know," "somewhat true" or "very true or often true." Space is also provided for parents or other caregivers to express their concerns about the child and share what they like best about the child. Both versions of the test contain just over 100 questions.

Special forms are provided for teachers to fill out and for the child to fill out as well. Trained professionals may also complete direct observation forms to supplement the results of the main checklist.


The purpose of the CBCL is to help parents and professionals determine what behavior problems children might have and how a child's behavior has changed over time. Behaviors that may trigger the use of the CBCL include bullying, aggression, hyperactivity, and violence. The CBCL may be used to determine whether children receive treatment for mental illnesses, qualify for mental health benefits or need to seek further treatment and help for negative behaviors.


Questions on the CBCL are grouped by key indicators or skills. Each question is given a score of 0, 1 or 2, based on the answer provided. Those scores are then added to determine whether the child has a problem related to that area or skill. While anyone can administer the CBCL, it takes a trained professional to effectively score it.

When to Use the CBCL

While the CBCL is designed to determine emotional and behavioral problems in children, it focuses on children with larger problems in these areas. Before having the CBCL administered for your child, take time to talk to him about why he is misbehaving, or why he feels the way he does. If you do not see a change in your child after talking to her and implementing strategies to fix those problems, it may be time to talk to a school counselor or child psychologist to ask about having the CBCL administered.

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Child Behavior Checklist Overview