Depression Childhood Depression Using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) to Assess Depression By Lauren DiMaria Lauren DiMaria LinkedIn Lauren DiMaria is a member of the Society of Clinical Research Associates and childhood psychology expert. Learn about our editorial process Updated on October 11, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP Medically reviewed by Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP Facebook LinkedIn Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print skynesher / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What It Measures Who Uses CBCL What to Expect Results How to Prepare A Word From Verywell The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) is a common tool for assessing depression in children, as well as other emotional and behavioral problems. The CBCL is one of the most widely used measures for assessing emotional and maladaptive behaviors in children. It is used in a variety of settings such as pediatricians' offices, schools, mental health facilities, private practices, hospitals, and research. What the CBCL Measures The CBCL is used to assess a wide variety of behaviors and emotions in children, including depression. It's particularly useful when it is unclear what might be causing a child's problem behaviors or symptoms. Psychologist Thomas M. Achenbach, PhD, developed the CBCL in 1966. He studied common problematic behaviors in children and used his findings to create a questionnaire that describes and detects those behaviors. These behaviors are meant to be easily identifiable by parents, caregivers, teachers, and others. The questions are grouped into eight categories, or subscales, which focus on different aspects of behavior: Social withdrawal (e.g., not wanting to play with friends anymore) Somatic complaints (e.g., unexplained stomachaches) Anxiety/depression Social problems Thought problems Attention problems Delinquent behavior Aggressive behavior There are also two broad scales made up of these syndrome scales. The internalizing behaviors scale includes the anxious/depressive, social withdrawal, and somatic complaints scores. The externalizing behaviors scale includes the delinquent behavior, social behavior, and social problems scores. Who Uses CBCL The CBCL is used by a qualified mental health professional to assess the behaviors and symptoms of the child. There are two additional related versions of CBCL for the child and their teacher to complete: the Youth Self-Report Form (YSF) and the Teacher Report Form (TRF). The TRF is especially useful when the concern is stemming from classroom behavior. Only one form of the survey is required for scoring, but completion of all three versions allows for different perspectives and cross-referencing. There are two versions of the CBCL: one for preschoolers, and one for youth ages 6 to 18. What to Expect The CBCL is a survey completed independently with a paper and pencil. If there are concerns about reading level or comprehension, the survey can be administered orally by an interviewer. There are more than 100 items on this survey, so it may take between 30 minutes and one hour to complete. For each question, the survey-taker must select the answer that best describes the frequency of the behavior. Additionally, there are several items in which an explanation of the behavior is required. Once the survey is complete, the qualified mental health professional will quickly review it to make sure all of the questions were answered. Results A trained professional needs to interpret the results. The raw score on its own is essentially meaningless. The mental health counselor who interprets the results should review and discuss findings. All of the versions of the CBCL have been studied to ensure that it is a valid and reliable measure of a child's behaviors and emotions. How to Prepare Generally, there is no preparation needed for the CBCL. However, if you know that you will be taking the parent version of the survey, you may want to think about the specific behaviors in your child that are of concern to you. Be sure to answer honestly. Indicating that your child may have some negative behaviors or feelings does not mean that you did anything to cause them. Getting an accurate diagnosis for your child is extremely important for their treatment and recovery. If your child will be taking the survey themselves, you can explain to the child that there are no right or wrong answers and that they will not be graded. A child may worry about how the results will affect them and the family. Encourage your child to be as honest as possible and be sure to reiterate that the child will not get in trouble for any answer. You may consider rewarding or praising your child for completing the survey, as it takes a lot of courage, especially for a child, to answer questions honestly about feelings. A Word From Verywell If your child is depressed, or you are concerned about any behaviors or feelings, speak to your child's pediatrician or another healthcare provider. The health professional can accurately diagnose your child's symptoms and suggest appropriate treatment. How to Spot Depression in a Child 7 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Achenbach TM. International findings with the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA): applications to clinical services, research, and training. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2019;13:30. doi:10.1186/s13034-019-0291-2 Ivanova MY, Achenbach TM, Rescorla LA, et al. Preschool psychopathology reported by parents in 23 societies: testing the seven-syndrome model of the child behavior checklist for ages 1.5-5. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2010;49(12):1215–1224. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2010.08.019 Saad LO, do Rosario MC, Cesar RC, et al. The Child Behavior Checklist-Obsessive-Compulsive Subscale Detects Severe Psychopathology and Behavioral Problems Among School-Aged Children. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2017;27(4):342–348. doi:10.1089/cap.2016.0125 Kweon K, Lee HJ, Park KJ, Joo Y, Kim HW. Child behavior checklist profiles in adolescents with bipolar and depressive disorders. Compr Psychiatry. 2016;70:152-8. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2016.07.007 Papachristou E, Schulz K, Newcorn J, Bédard AC, Halperin JM, Frangou S. Comparative Evaluation of Child Behavior Checklist-Derived Scales in Children Clinically Referred for Emotional and Behavioral Dysregulation. Front Psychiatry. 2016;7:146. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00146 Kim J, Carlson GA, Meyer SE, et al. Correlates of the CBCL-dysregulation profile in preschool-aged children. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2012;53(9):918–926. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02546.x Pandolfi V, Magyar CI, Norris M. Validity Study of the CBCL 6-18 for the Assessment of Emotional Problems in Youth With ASD. J Ment Health Res Intellect Disabil. 2014;7(4):306–322. doi:10.1080/19315864.2014.930547 Additional Reading Gregory RJ. Psychological Testing: History, Principles, and Applications, Global Edition. New York: Pearson Education Limited; 2015. By Lauren DiMaria Lauren DiMaria is a member of the Society of Clinical Research Associates and childhood psychology expert. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Depression Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.