How Student Behavioral Checklists Work

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What is the definition of a behavioral checklist? In a nutshell, this checklist is an assessment tool used to determine whether a child's behavior problems are severe. Learn more about behavioral checklists and whether your child requires such a tool with this review.

What Makes Up a Behavioral Checklist

Behavioral checklists usually include a series of questions about specific behaviors. People who know the child well are asked to complete the checklist. The checklists are scored, and they yield a score that enables comparison of a child's ratings compared to other children his or her age. This comparison allows evaluators to determine the degree of severity of a child's behavior problems.

The Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist, developed in the 1960s, is one of the most well-known behavioral checklists. It is named after psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Achenbach, who created questionnaires to assess how children behave and emotionally function as well as their social weaknesses and strengths. The checklist is designed for students between the ages of six and 18.

The Achenbach system stands out for its well-rounded approach to measuring adaptive and maladaptive behaviors. Studies have linked the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA) to diagnostic and special education categories alike.

The system has been translated into over 100 languages and in addition to schools, it is used in mental health programs, medical programs, child and family services departments, public health agencies, training programs, health insurance and more. It also offers applications with a culturally diverse or multicultural focus, making it suitable for use internationally.

Behavioral checklist assessment tools help users make age-appropriate comparisons by offering scales that span a wide range of age groups.

Behavioral Checklists and ADHD

Behavioral checklists are often used to determine if a child has a behavioral disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is an attention disorder characterized by a lack of focus, hyperactivity and poor impulse control. Children with ADHD may fidget or have a hard time sitting still. Such children may also blurt out answers in class, have difficulty completing assignments or forget to turn them in once they have been completed.

They may also have difficulty completing complicated tasks in the classroom that require them to follow a series of steps. Moreover, these students may often lose materials, such as pencils, paper or notes to take home. To outsiders, children with ADHD may appear to be trouble-makers or "bad kids," but their behavior problems stem from their disorder.

If you suspect your child requires a behavioral checklist, don't hesitate to speak with her teacher, counselor, administrator or pediatrician about using this assessment tool to find out. There are many reasons why children act out, including trauma, divorce, or difficulties adjusting to a move. On the other hand, some children may behave disruptively because they have a behavior disorder or learning disability.

Help your child get back on the right track by getting to the root of the problem. A behavioral checklist may be able to reveal the source of your child's behavior problems.

2 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.
  1. Mazefsky CA, Anderson R, Conner CM, Minshew N. Child Behavior Checklist Scores for School-Aged Children with Autism: Preliminary Evidence of Patterns Suggesting the Need for Referral. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. 2011;33(1):31-37. doi:10.1007/s10862-010-9198-1

  2. National Institute of Mental Health. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

By Ann Logsdon
Ann Logsdon is a school psychologist specializing in helping parents and teachers support students with a range of educational and developmental disabilities.