Identifying an efficient set of items sensitive to clinical-range externalizing problems in children.
The present study applied item response theory to identify an efficient set of items of the Achenbach Externalizing scale from the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL; 33 items) and Teacher's Report Form (TRF; 35 items) that were sensitive to clinical-range scores. Mothers and teachers rated children's externalizing problems annually from ages 5 to 13 years in 2 independent samples (Ns = 585 and 1,199). Item properties for each rater across ages 5-8 and 9-13 were examined with item response theory. We identified 10 mother- and teacher-reported items from both samples based on the items' measurement precision for subclinical and clinical levels of externalizing problems: externalizing problems that involve meanness to others, destroying others' things, fighting, lying and cheating, attacking people, screaming, swearing/obscene language, temper tantrums, threatening people, and being loud. Scores on the scales using these items had strong reliability and psychometric properties, capturing nearly as much information as the full Externalizing scale for classifying clinical levels of externalizing problems. Scores on the scale with the 10 CBCL items had moderate accuracy, equivalent to the full Externalizing scale, in classifying diagnoses of conduct disorder based on a research diagnostic interview. Of course, comprehensive clinical assessment would consider additional items, dimensions of behavior, and sources of information, too, but it appears that the behaviors tapped by this select set of items may be core to externalizing psychopathology in children. (PsycINFO Database Record
Petersen, IT; Bates, JE; Dodge, KA; Lansford, JE; Pettit, GS
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