The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)

A tool used to screen for abnormal behavior and emotions in children. Part of the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment—a comprehensive approach to studying children’s behavior—the CBCL comprises two versions—the Preschool Checklist (CBCL/1½-5), for use with children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years; and the School-age Checklist (CBCL/6-18), for children aged 6 to 18 years. It also contains two forms—the Teacher’s Report Form (TRF), administered to a child’s teachers; and the Youth Self Report (YSR), completed by children aged 11 to 18. Apart from the TRF and YSR, a child’s parent, family member, or caregiver completes both the Preschool and School-age Checklists. The Preschool Checklist contains 100 items, and the School-Age Checklist contains 120 items. In both checklists, statements about a child’s behaviors are provided, with response options scored on a three point scale—Not true (0), Somewhat or Sometimes true (1), Very true or Often true (2). Two open-ended items are included at the end of a questionnaire for a respondent to report any other worrisome behavior. A total score can be derived for the tool, as well as for various behavioral syndromes—Anxious/Depressed, Withdrawn/Depressed, Somatic Complaints, Social Problem, Thought Problems, Attention Problems, Rule-Breaking Behavior, and Aggressive Behavior; and DSM IV categories—Affective Problems, Anxiety Problems, Somatic Problems, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Problems, Oppositional Defiant Problems, and Conduct Problem. Although the CBCL does not require administration by a clinician, someone with at least a graduate-level degree—that included coursework in standardized assessments—should administer it. The tool requires approximately 15 minutes for administration.

Related Publications

Mollica, R. F., Poole, C., Son, L., Murray, C. C., & Tor, S. (1997). Effects of war trauma on Cambodian refugee adolescents’ functional health and mental health status. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 36(8), 1098-1106.

Allwood, M. A., Bell-Dolan, D., & Husain, S. A. (2002). Children’s trauma and adjustment reactions to violent and nonviolent war experiences. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 41(4), 450-457.

Rousseau, C., & Drapeau, A. (2003). Are Refugee Children an At-Risk Group? A Longitudinal Study of Cambodian Adolescents. Journal of Refugee Studies, 16(1), 67-81.

Najarian, L. M., Goenjian, A. K., Pelcovitz, D., Mandel, F., & Najarian, B. (1996). Relocation after a disaster: posttraumatic stress disorder in Armenia after the earthquake. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 35(3), 374-383.

What it measures

Problematic behavior, Behavior


Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment


Children ages 18 months to 18 years



English, 90+ languages