Using the CBCL to screen for maltreatment in young children

Theresa Jane Uchison (2006)

This study explored whether a set of conceptually identified behaviors, as reported on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) 1½ to 5 could be utilized to discriminate accurately between populations of maltreated children and children from a normative sample. Bessel van der Kolk's biopsychosocial theory of trauma, which explains the cause and effect relationship between child maltreatment and behavior, served as the basis for the conceptual framework. This theory offers an alternative to trauma-related diagnostic criteria for conceptualizing maltreatment related symptomology in young children. Van der Kolk breaks down abuse-related sequelae into four categories: the capacity to modulate emotions, difficulty learning new coping skills, alterations in immune competency, and impairment in the capacity to engage in meaningful social affiliations. These categories, or trauma sequelae , parallel the biological, psychological, and social effects of maltreatment in young children found in literature and provide a useful and comprehensive framework for conceptualizing the effects of maltreatment during early phases of development. A review of the research related to each trauma sequelae category supports the importance of examining multiple aspects of a young child's functioning when assessing for potential signs of maltreatment, Variables consistent with the literature pertaining to van der Kolk's four trauma sequelae categories were isolated from the CBCL and used in a stepwise discriminate function procedure in order to generate a predictive model. This model differentiated effectively between children in maltreated and normative samples with 85% accuracy in the original sample, and with 84.4% accuracy in a smaller cross-validation sample. The results of this study suggest that this model could be a useful way to help identify potential signs of maltreatment in young children.