Mental health of young people in Australia

Appendix A: Mean scores on the child behaviour checklist and youth self-report

Page last updated: October 2000

Mental health problems were assessed using the Child Behaviour Checklist completed by parents (Achenbach, 1991a) and the Youth Self-Report completed by adolescents aged 13–17 years (Achenbach, 1991b). The two checklists are very similar. Each consists of a large list of items describing problems experienced by children and adolescents. On each item, the person completing the checklist describes the functioning of a child/adolescent over the past six months using a three point scale item (0 = Not True; 1 = Somewhat or Sometimes True; 2 = Very True or Often True).

A Total Problems score comprising the sum of all the scores on the behaviour items can be obtained from each checklist. In addition, ratings of Internalising and Externalising behaviour can be obtained. The internalising score rates fearful, inhibited, or overcontrolled behaviour while the externalising score rates aggressive, antisocial, or undercontrolled behaviour. In each case, the score is based on the sum of the scores on the items comprising each scale. Eight syndrome scores, labelled Withdrawn, Somatic Complaints, Anxious/Depressed, Social Problems, Thought Problems, Attention Problems, Delinquent Behaviour and Aggressive Behaviour, provide ratings in more specific areas (see table 3.1 for definitions of these syndromes).

Three approaches can be used to summarise the results obtained from the checklists. The first approach uses the raw scores on each scale. The advantage of this approach is that it is easy to compare the number of problems on each scale experienced by different populations of children and adolescents. This is the approach used in table A.1, table A.2, table A.3 and table A.4. The disadvantage is that the number of items comprising each scale varies. As a result it is difficult to compare raw scores across different scales. To address this issue, T scores can be derived from the raw scores on the checklists (Achenbach, 1991a; Achenbach, 1991b). The T scores use a metric which is similar on all the scales. This makes it possible to compare the relative number of problems experienced by children and adolescents on different scales. T scores are not reported in this survey. Finally, as described in chapter 2 and chapter 3 of this report, recommended cut-offs ('thresholds') can be used to identify the number of children in a population who are scoring in the clinical range on each checklist scale.

Across the different age and gender groups there was often a close association between the prevalence of problems reported in chapter 3 and the average behaviour problem scores shown in table A.1, table A.2, table A.3 and table A.4. However, there were some important exceptions. For example, although a higher percentage of adolescent females scored in the clinical range on the Externalising scale of the Youth Self-Report, on average, the number of externalising problems reported by both males and females on this scale were similar. Furthermore, although the percentage of male and female adolescents scoring in the clinical range on the Internalising scale was similar, the average number of internalising problems reported by female adolescents was higher than that reported by male adolescents.
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Table A.1 Mean problem scores on the general behaviour scales of the Child Behaviour Checklist for children and adolescents (4–17 years)

Total problemsExternalising problemsInternalising problems
All Children
19.0
7.0
5.1
Males 4–12 year olds
21.0
8.1
4.8
Males 13–17 year olds
17.4
7.1
4.6
Females 4–12 year olds
18.8
6.6
5.1
Females 13–17 year olds
17.1
5.4
6.1

Table A.2 Mean problem scores on the specific behaviour scales of the Child Behaviour Checklist for children and adolescents (4–17 years)

Type of problemAll childrenMales 4–12 yearsFemales 4–12 yearsMales 13–17 yearsFemales 13–17 years
Aggressive Behaviour
5.5
6.6
5.4
5.0
4.0
Anxiety/Depression
2.5
2.5
2.5
2.1
2.8
Attention Problems
2.5
3.0
2.1
2.6
1.9
Withdrawn
1.6
1.5
1.5
1.6
1.7
Delinquency Problems
1.5
1.6
1.1
2.0
1.4
Social Problems
1.4
1.6
1.4
1.1
1.2
Somatic Complaints
1.2
1.0
1.2
1.2
1.8
Thought Problems
0.3
0.4
0.3
0.3
0.3

Table A.3 Mean problem scores on the general behaviour scales of the Youth Self–Report for adolescents (13–17 years)

Total problemsExternalising problemsInternalising problems
All Adolescents
35.6
11.2
10.8
Males
33.0
11.4
8.8
Females
38.2
11.1
12.9
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Table A.4 Mean problem scores on the specific behaviour scales of the Youth Self–Report for adolescents (13–17 years)

All adolescentsMalesFemales
Aggressive Behaviour
7.8
7.8
7.9
Anxiety/Depression
5.2
4.2
6.2
Attention Problems
4.3
4.3
4.4
Delinquency Problems
3.4
3.6
3.2
Withdrawn
3.0
2.5
3.4
Somatic Complaints
3.0
2.3
3.7
Social Problems
2.2
2.1
2.3
Thought Problems
1.6
1.5
1.7