for Children Ages 3-16
The original Pediatric Symptom Checklist obtains parents’ reports of children’s behavioral/emotional problems on 35 items that describe specific behaviors and emotions. Parents rate their child for how true each item is using the following scale: 0 = not true (as far as you know); 1 = somewhat or sometimes true; 2 = very true or often true.
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For school-aged children 6-16 years, a total score of 28 or higher is taken as an indication of significant psychosocial impairment. For children ages 2-5, the scores on items 6, 7, 14, and 15 are ignored and a total score based on the 31 remaining items is completed. The cutoff score for younger children is 24 or greater.
It is important to note that the PSC is a screening instrument and not a diagnostic tool. The PSC is designed to alert clinicians early to difficulties in functioning that may indicate current or potential (i.e., future) psychosocial problems. In other words, use of the PSC may make it possible for clinicians to intervene earlier and thus to prevent some premorbid childhood conditions from becoming more serious adult disorders.
Although parents have been shown to be the most reliable reporters of their children’s psychosocial and behavioral problems, some mood disorders, particularly depression and anxiety in adolescents, may be more reliably identified by the children themselves (Herjanic & Reich, 1982). When problems like these are suspected, the youth self-report version of the PSC (Pagano et al, 1998) or a specific disorder screen like the Children’s Depression Inventory (Kovacs, 1985; Nelson et al, 1987) or the Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale (Reynolds & Richman, 1985) may be more accurate or appropriate.