Checkmate Plus specializes in the publication of comprehensive assessment instruments designed to efficiently screen for the most prevalent DSM-5 emotional and behavioral disorders including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). 

The Child Symptom Inventories are a series of parent and teacher checklists developed for the evaluation of three age groups (3 to 5, 5 to 12, and 12 to 18 years) to provide professionals with information about the presence of symptoms of at least a dozen DSM-5 disorders.   There are also Symptom Inventories for adults.

The checklists are used by professionals in mental health (psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers), education (school psychologists, special education personnel), and medical (pediatricians, neurologists) settings involved in the evaluation of emotional and behavioral problems.

The Child Symptom Inventories were developed by Kenneth D. Gadow, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Special Education, and Joyce  Sprafkin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology. Drs. Gadow and Sprafkin are the authors of scores of scientific publications that cover a variety of topics in psychiatry, pediatrics, psychology, and special education.  Their first symptom inventory was developed in 1984 to evaluate children with learning and behavioral disorders who were enrolled in special education  programs.  Later, this instrument was expanded to include the symptoms of more disorders and and adapted for use by clinicians.  In 1994 the CSI were revised to reflect changes in diagnostic criteria and formatted for use with three different age groups (preschoolers, elementary school children, adolescents) and have now become widely adopted by professionals in mental health, medical, and educational settings.


By Kenneth D. Gadow, Ph.D. and Joyce Sprafkin, Ph.D.

The Child Symptom Inventories are screening instruments for the behavioral, affective, and cognitive symptoms of over a dozen DSM-5 childhood disorders.  Individual items are phrased in such a way as to be easily understood by parents and teachers.  There are Child Symptom Inventories for three different age groups, Early Childhood Inventory-5 (ages 3 to 5 years), Child Symptom Inventory-4 (ages 5 to 12 years), and Adolescent Symptom Inventory-4 (ages 12 to 18 years), and a self-report measure for adolescent patients, Youth's Inventory-4 (ages 12 to 18 years). There is also the child & Adolescent Symptom Inventory-5 (ages 5 to 18 years) which refelects the changes made in DSM-5

In a mental health setting, the clinician can either (a) ask the parent or teacher each question and record the respondent's answer, or more efficiently, (b) simply review the answers during the clinical interview and ask more detailed questions about those categories that the youth's care provider has indicated are problem areas.  The items are grouped according to diagnostic category, which facilitates a thorough and orderly interview, helps in detecting comorbid conditions, and simplifies making differential diagnoses.

In a school setting, the school psychologist can use the Child Symptom Inventories to screen for the presence of emotional and behavioral symptoms in children who are being considered for special services.  They can also help to determine whether a child should be referred to a qualified mental health professional for a more in-depth evaluation.

In a general medical practice, the Child Symptom Inventories can help the physician to identify the specific emotional or behavioral problems that are of concern to parents.  The physician can easily decide whether referral to a mental health professional is appropriate.

SCORING PROCEDURES:  There are two different methods to score the Child Symptom Inventories:  Symptom Count scores (never=0, sometimes=0, often=1, very often=1) and Symptom Severity scores (never=0, sometimes=1, often=2, very often=3).  The Symptom Count scoring procedure helps to identify children who exhibit the minimum number of symptoms necessary for a diagnosis of a disorder and who may require a more in-depth clinical evaluation.  The Symptom Severity scoring procedure measures the degree of behavioral deviance compared with a norm sample.  T scores from 60 to 69 denote symptoms of moderate severity, and T scores of 70 and above indicate high symptom severity.  Obtained scores can be plotted on Symptom Severity Profile score sheets.

ADMINISTRATION TIME:  It takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete the Parent Checklist and 10 minutes to complete the Teacher Checklist.  After a little practice, the Child Symptom Inventories can be scored in 3 to 5 minutes.  Computer scoring and report writing software programs are available.

RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY:  Numerous studies have been conducted to examine the reliability and validity of these instruments.  Briefly, the test-retest reliabilities of most symptom categories range from moderate to high.  Predictive validity was investigated in over a dozen studies by making comparisons with structured psychiatric interviews or data-based psychiatric diagnoses in a research-oriented teaching hospital.  The findings from these studies indicate reasonably low rates of false negatives (moderate to high sensitivity) and low rates of false positives (moderate to high specificity) for most disorders.  The Child Symptom Inventories show reasonably high agreement with other commonly used behavior rating scales (convergent validity) and easily differentiate clinical and nonclinical samples (discriminant validity).

NORMS:  Although DSM-5 lists one set of symptoms for all child and adolescent disorders, our normative data studies show that there are important age, gender or rater differences in Symptom Severity scores for almost all symptom categories. Moreover, it is possible to receive a Symptom Severity score in the 90th percentile and yet not have the prerequisite symptoms for a diagnosis.  In such borderline cases, the availability of normative data helps the clinician to make treatment decisions.

OTHER LANGUAGES:  The CSI-4 Parent Checklist is available in 14 languages.

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Revised: January 23, 2016