Adjustment Scales for Children and Adolescents


The Adjustment Scales for Children and Adolescents (ASCA; McDermott, Marson, & Stott, 1993) is a standardized behavior rating instrument completed by a classroom teacher and scored and interpreted by a psychologist or other qualified specialist. The ASCA assesses behavior problems, subtypes of psychopathology, and specific styles of healthy adjustment for youths aged 5 through 17 years (grades K through 12). It contains 156 items, 97 that measure problem behaviors and 26 that measure positive behaviors. Items are each presented within one of 29 specific contextual situations involving authority, peers, smaller or weaker youths, recreation, learning, or confrontation. Behavioral indicators and situations were designed and revised in field trials to provide clear content meaning for teachers and to reduce any tendency for unwarranted inferences about a youth's internal cognitive or emotional processes. Rather than asking teachers to judge and indicate the frequency or intensity of behaviors or symptoms presented in a checklist format, the ASCA uniquely requires teachers to select specific behaviors (i.e., accepts the rules, plays for himself only, inclined to cheat, etc.) listed within a specific situation (i.e., Does he play fairly?).

The ASCA is a major revision of the Bristol Social Adjustment Guides (Stott & Marston, 1970). It was conormed with the Differential Abilities Scales (Elliot, 1990) and with the Learning Behavior Scales (McDermott, Green, Francis, & Stott, 1999). ASCA standardization data were collected by The Psychological Corporation.

Male and Female versions of ASCA are provided. The versions, although presenting identical behaviors and situations, differ in the use of gender referents ("he," "him" vs. "she," "her") as a means of helping focus the teacher's attention on the specific youth. The ASCA takes approximately 10-20 minutes to complete. It also applies an easy, one-step scoring system that requires no templates or overlays. Percentiles and normalized T scores are provided for 6 core behavior syndromes, 2 supplementary syndromes, and 2 overall adjustment scales.

The core syndromes are comprised of Attention-Deficit Hyperactive, Solitary Aggressive (Provocative), Solitary Aggressive (Impulsive), Oppositional Defiant, Diffident, and Avoidant syndromes. Supplementary syndromes (Delinquent and Lethargic [Hypoactive]) are also provided. The Overactivity and Underactivity overall adjustment scales describe behavior as generally excessive or pervasively withdrawn or overcontrolled and are similar to the externalizing and internalizing dimensions frequently identified in the child psychopathology literature.

Specialists may also classify youths according to 22 distinct behavior styles (syndrome profiles) found in the national population, including subtypes of adjusted, at risk, and maladjusted behavior, and base rates for gender, ethnicity, social class, and associated special education classifications and physical symptoms. Discriminant classifications are also available based on diagnostic efficiency statistics obtained from comparisons within the nationwide sample.

The ASCA was standardized on a nationwide sample of 2,818 5 through 17 year-old youths (grades K-12). This includes a normative sample of 1,400 youths stratified according to the 1990 U.S. Census by age, grade level, gender, race/ethnicity, mother's and father's education, family structure, national region, community size, and associated handicapping conditions. The additional 1,418 cases comprised samples for validity, generalization, and racial/ethnic-bias investigations.

The 63-page manual presents extensive documentation of the technical properties of the ASCA. This includes exhaustive evidence for content validity, construct validity, convergent and divergent validity, criterion related validity, internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and interrater reliability, and classification accuracy (detection of socially and emotionally disturbed youths and differentiation from normal, learning disabled, speech impaired, gifted, and other categories). The ASCA demonstrates substantial stability and accuracy of across youth developmental levels, gender, and racial/ethnic groups (including White, African-American, and varied non-white youngsters).