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Aim  To describe behavioural and emotional symptoms among Icelandic preschool children with cerebral palsy (CP).

Method  Children with congenital CP, assessed with the Child Behavior Checklist/1½–5 (CBCL/1½–5) and Caregiver-Teacher Report Form (C-TRF), were enrolled in the study. A comparison group was recruited from the general population. Thirty-six children (53% males) with CP were assessed at a mean age of 4 years 11 months (SD 5mo, range 4–6y); 26 (72%) had bilateral distribution of symptoms and 32 (89%) had spastic CP. Thirty (83%) were at Gross Motor Function Classification System levels I or II and six at levels III or IV. For comparison, 110 (43% males) and 120 (48% males) children were assessed with the CBCL/1½–5 and the C-TRF respectively, at a mean age of 4 years 6 months (SD 6mo, range 4–6y).

Results  Sixteen children (48%) with CP had high scores on total problems scale of the CBCL/1½–5 and 20 (65%) on the C-TRF compared with 18% of the comparison group, both on the CBCL/1½–5 and the C-TRF (p<0.001). Children with CP had higher scores on all subscales of the CBCL/1½–5 and the C-TRF, except somatic complaints. Attention difficulties, withdrawn, aggressive behaviour, and anxious/depressed symptoms were most pronounced among children with CP.

Interpretation  A large proportion of preschool children with CP have substantial behavioural and emotional difficulties, which need to be addressed in their treatment.