hears that kids' behavior seems to be getting worse. Abundant
publicity about the misdeeds of today's young people certainly
supports this impression. However, to determine whether the prevalence
of problem behaviors is actually changing, it is necessary to
assess representative samples of the population using the same
standardized methodology at different points in time. In 1993,
Achenbach and Howell (1993) reported comparisons of parents' ratings
on the CBCL and teachers' ratings on the TRF that showed significant
increases in problems over intervals of 13 and 8 years, respectively.
As a sequel to that study, Achenbach, Dumenci, and Rescorla (2002a,
2002b, 2003) compared CBCL, TRF, and YSR scores obtained in national
surveys in 1989 versus 1999. Ratings by parents, teachers, and
youths all showed small declines in problem scores from 1989 to
1999. In addition, Achenbach et al. (2002a, 2003) compared the
1989 and 1999 problem scores with the 1976 CBCL scores and 1981
TRF scores that had been reported by Achenbach and Howell (1993).
Spanning 23 years for the CBCL and 18 years for the TRF, these
comparisons showed that the significant increases in problem scores
in 1989 were reversed in 1999. The 1999 CBCL problem scores were
not as low as in 1976, but CBCL social competence scores were
as high as in 1976. The changes from the earliest assessment to
1989 and then to1999 did not differ significantly in relation
to the age, gender, socioeconomic status, nor ethnicity of the
children. Despite the increases and then declines in problem scores,
correlations between the mean scores obtained on the problem items
from one assessment to another ranged from .94 to .99 over periods
up to 23 years. This indicated great stability in the problems
that received relatively high, medium, or low scores from parents,
teachers, and youths at each assessment.
Achenbach, T.M., Dumenci, L., & Rescorla, L.A. (2002a). Is
American student behavior getting worse? Teacher ratings over
an 18-year period. School Psychology Review, 31, 428-442.
T.M., Dumenci, L., & Rescorla, L.A. (2002b). Ten-year comparisons
of problems and competencies for national samples of youth: Self,
parent, and teacher reports. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral
Disorders, 10, 194-203.
T.M., Dumenci, L., & Rescorla, L.A. (2003). Are American children's
problems still getting worse? A 23-year comparison. Journal
of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31, 1-11.
T.M., & Howell, C.T. (1993). Are American children's problems
getting worse? A 13-year comparison. Journal of the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 32, 1145-1154.