ASEBA – Achenbach System of Empirical Based Assessment 

Dr Thomas Achenbach 






Observation time

Measures behavioral disorders

Paper version Offered online at a cost of $ 5 per administration

Clinical evaluation

Psychologist Doctor Educational psychologist



20 - 40 min

The Achenbach Empirical Evaluation System (ASEBA): Dr. Achenbach's development, results, theory, and applications exemplifies and integrates four decades of ASEB-related work. Beginning with the origins of ASEBA in the 1960s, it traces the major stages of its conceptual, methodological and theoretical development.


It also elucidates ASEBA's applications for evaluation, training and practical research. The first scientific report on the results of ASEBA was presented to the Society for Research on Child Development (Achenbach, 1965) and the first scientific publication was a monograph of the Psychological Monographs series of the American Psychological Association. (Achenbach, 1966). ASEBA is a comprehensive, evidence-based assessment system developed through decades of research and practical experience.


ASEBA assesses skills, adaptive functioning and behavioral, emotional and social problems from 11 to 22 years old to over 90 years old. The ASEBA instruments clearly document the functioning of clients in terms of quantitative scores and individualized descriptions in the respondents' own words. Descriptions include what is most concerned about respondents about clients, the best things about customers, and details about skills and issues that are not captured by quantitative scores alone.

ASEBA Overview 

The individualized descriptive data, plus competence, adaptive, and problem scores, facilitate comprehensive, in-depth assessment. Numerous studies demonstrate significant associations between ASEBA scores and both diagnostic and special-education classifications 

The ASEBA approach involves: 

(for references, see the Bibliography of Published Studies using the ASEBA). 
Recording the problems reported for large samples of children, adolescents, and adults. 
The ASEBA is widely used in mental health services; schools; medical settings; child and family services; multicultural assessment; HMOs; public health agencies; child guidance; training; and research. 

The ASEBA approach originated in the 1960s with Dr. Achenbach’s efforts to develop a more differentiated picture of child and adolescent psychopathology than was provided by the prevailing diagnostic system. At that time, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM) provided only two categories for childhood disorders. These were Adjustment Reaction of Childhood and Schizophrenic Reaction, Childhood Type. 

Performing multivariate statistical analyses of correlations among the problems to identify syndromes of problems that tend to co-occur. Using reports of skills and involvement in activities, social relations, school, and work to assess competencies and adaptive functioning. Constructing profiles of scales on which to display individuals’ scores in relation to norms for their age and gender. 

Preschool (Ages 11⁄2-5) Assessments 

Also see Observational Assessment of Children (TOF) 

The preschool forms and profiles span ages 11⁄2-5 years. The forms obtain parents’, daycare providers’ and teachers’ ratings of 99 problem items plus descriptions of problems, disabilities, what concerns parents or respondent most about the child, and the best things about the child. 


The empirically based syndromes scored from the CBCL/11⁄2-5 and C-TRF reflect actual patterns of problems derived from factor analyses that were coordinated between the two instruments. The CBCL/11⁄2-5 also has a Sleep Problems syndrome. Both forms have parallel Internalizing, Externalizing, and Total Problems scales and a Stress Problems scale. 


Based on over 27,000 CBCLs and C-TRFs from 24 societies, the ADM Module for Ages 11⁄2-5 with Multicultural Options scores problem scales with norms for societies that have relatively low problem scores (Group 1 societies), intermediate scores (Group 2), or high scores (Group 3). Select societies by name or select Group 1, 2, or 3 norms for profiles of syndrome, DSM-oriented, Internalizing, Externalizing, and Total Problems scales. 


Sample Forms Revision Information 

You can also select norms for displaying scale scores in cross-informant bar graphs for up to 8 CBCLs and C-TRFs per child. Scores from each form can even be displayed in relation to more than one set of norms; e.g., display scores from a CBCL completed by an immigrant parent with norms for the parent’s home society and the host society. You can then see whether scores are clinically deviant according to either or both sets of norms. 


The Multicultural Supplement to the Manual for the ASEBA Preschool Forms and Profiles fully documents construction of the multicultural norms for the CBCL/11⁄2-5 and C-TRF. The Supplement illustrates multicultural scoring, cross-informant comparisons, and practical applications in school, mental health, medical, and forensic contexts. The Supplement also reports multicultural findings for confirmatory factor analyses, internal consistencies, cross-informant correlations, and distributions of scale scores. Updates are provided for the Language Development Survey (LDS) of the CBCL/11⁄2-5. Research guidelines and extensive reviews of research on the instruments are also provided, plus a bibliography of over 300 publications reporting their use with young children. 


Language Development Survey (LDS) 

An especially valuable feature of the CBCL/11⁄2-5 is the LDS, which uses parents’ reports to assess children’s expressive vocabularies and word combinations, as well as risk factors for language delays. Developed by Dr. Leslie Rescorla, the LDS has been used in numerous studies of language problems. (For references, see the Bibliography of Published Studies Using the ASEBA) Based on our national normative sample, the LDS indicates whether a child’s vocabulary and word combinations are delayed relative to norms for ages 18-35 months. The LDS can be completed for language-delayed older children for comparison with norms up to 35 months. 


Preschool CBCL 11⁄2-5-LDS and C-TRF Scales 

Syndrome Scales: Emotionally Reactive; Anxious/Depressed; Somatic Complaints; Withdrawn; Sleep Problems (CBCL only); Attention Problems; Aggressive Behavior 


The profile of DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual)-oriented scales, which comprise CBCL/11⁄2-5-LDS and C-TRF items that experienced psychiatrists and psychologists from many cultures rated as being very consistent with DSM-5 diagnostic categories. 


DSM-Oriented Scales: Depressive Problems; Anxiety Problems; Pervasive Developmental Problems; Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Problems; Oppositional Defiant Problems. 


Revisions of Forms: 

In 2000, we revised the Child Behavior Checklist/2-3 (CBCL/2-3) and Caregiver-Teacher Report Form (C-TRF) to span ages 11⁄2-5. Two items in the CBCL/2-3 that were unscored or rare were replaced on the CBCL/11⁄2-5/LDS with items that sharpen assessment of important syndromes. Overweight was replaced by 51. Shows panic for no good reason and 79. Stores up things was replaced by 79. Rapid shifts between sadness and excitement. 

Adult (Ages 18-59) Assessments 

The Adult Self-Report (ASR) and Adult Behavior Checklist (ABCL) incorporate many items of the 1997 editions of the Young Adult Forms (YASR & YABCL), plus new items and new national norms that span ages 18-59. 

The profiles for scoring the ASR and ABCL include normed scales for adaptive functioning, Personal Strengths, empirically based syndromes, substance use, Internalizing, Externalizing, and Total Problems. In addition, the ABCL profiles feature DSM-oriented scales consisting of items that experts from many cultures identified as being very consistent with DSM-5 categories. The profiles also include a Critical Items scale consisting of items of particular concern to clinicians. The profiles display scale scores in relation to norms for each gender at ages 18-35 and 36-59, based on national probability samples. 

Adults complete the ASR to report their own adaptive functioning, problems, and substance use. People who know the adult complete the parallel ABCL. 

Both forms are valuable for assessing adults in mental health, family therapy, forensic, counseling, medical, substance abuse, and other settings. The ASR and ABCL are especially valuable for assessing parents of children seen for mental health and family therapy services. By having parents complete ASRs to describe themselves and ABCLs to describe their partner, you obtain profiles that highlight crucial agreements and disagreements between parents’ self-descriptions and other people’s descriptions of their functioning. You can also compare parents’ ASR and ABCL profiles with their children’s ASEBA profiles. 

Adult (ASR/18-59 &ABCL/18-59) Scales 

Adaptive Functioning Scales: Friends; Spouse/Partner; Family; Job; Education, Personal Strengths
Syndrome Scales: Anxious/Depressed; Withdrawn; Somatic Complaints; Thought Problems; Attention Problems; Aggressive Behavior; Rule-brea- king Behavior, and Intrusive 

DSM-oriented Scales: Depressive Problems; Anxiety Problems; Somatic Problems; Avoidant Personality Problems; Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Problems (Inattention and Hyperactivity/Impulsivity subscales); and Antisocial Personality Problems 

Substance Use Scales: Tobacco; Alcohol; Drugs 

Older Adult (Ages 60-90+) Assessments 

The Older Adult forms (OABCL and OASR) can greatly improve assessment in a variety of contexts, including psychiatric and psychological evaluations; medical care; assessments following significant life changes, such as loss of a loved one or a move to an assisted living environment; and evaluations before and after planned changes and interventions. 

The OASR obtains older adults’ self-reports of diverse aspects of adaptive functioning and problems. The OABCL is a parallel form for obtaining reports from people who know the adult well. 

Cross-informant comparisons make it easy to see similarities and differences between self-reports and reports by other people 

Greatly improve assessment in contexts such as: psychiatric and psychological evaluations; medical care, including routine care and evaluation of functioning following events such as strokes, falls, and illnesses; following significant life changes, such as loss of a loved one, moves to retirement communities, assisted living, and nursing homes; and evaluations before and after planned changes and interventions. 

Especially helpful is to have forms completed at regular intervals, such as 2 months, to determine if functioning is improving, worsening, or stable. 


Older Adult (OASR/60-90+& OABCL/60-90+) Scales 

Adaptive Functioning Scales: Friends; Spouse/ Partner; Personal Strengths 

Syndrome Scales: Anxious/Depressed; Worries; Somatic Complaints; Functional Impairment; Memory/Cognition Problems; Thought Problems; and Irritable/Disinhibited 

DSM-oriented Scales: Depressive Problems; Anxiety Problems; Somatic Problems; Dementia Problems; Psychotic Problems; and Antisocial Personality Problems