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Keywords:

  • Assessment;
  • Child Behavior Checklist;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • posttraumatic stress disorder

Background:  The Child Behavior Checklist Juvenile Bipolar Disorder (CBCL-JBD) profile and Posttraumatic Stress Problems (CBCL-PTSP) scale have been used to assess juvenile bipolar disorder (JBD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), respectively. However, their validity is questionable according to previous research. Both measures are associated with severe psychopathology often encompassing multiple DSM-IV diagnoses. Further, children who score highly on one of these scales often have elevated scores on the other, independent of PTSD or JBD diagnoses. We hypothesized that the two scales may be indicators of a single syndrome related to dysregulated mood, attention, and behavior. We aimed to describe and identify the overlap between the CBCL-JBD profile and CBCL-PTSP scales.

Method:  Two thousand and twenty-nine (2029) children from a nationally representative sample (1073 boys, 956 girls; mean age = 11.98; age range = 6–18) were rated on emotional and behavior problems by their parents using the CBCL. Comparative model testing via structural equation modeling was conducted to determine whether the CBCL-JBD profile and CBCL-PTSP scale are best described as measuring separate versus unitary constructs. Associations with suicidality and competency scores were also examined.

Results:  The CBCL-JBD and CBCL-PTSP demonstrated a high degree of overlap (r = .89) at the latent variable level. The best fitting, most parsimonious model was one in which the CBCL-JBD and CBCL-PTSP items identified a single latent construct, which was associated with higher parental endorsement of child suicidal behavior, and lower functioning.

Conclusions:  The CBCL-JBD profile and CBCL-PTSP scale overlap to a remarkable degree, and may be best described as measures of a single syndrome. This syndrome appears to be related to severe psychopathology, but may not conform to traditional DSM-IV classification. These results contribute to the ongoing debate about the utility of the CBCL-JBD and CBCL-PTSP profiles, and offer promising methods of empirically based measurement of disordered self-regulation in youth.