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Multicultural Research with the ASEBA

The ASEBA approach is especially good for multicultural research. Comprising specific problem items that can be rated by different informants without specialized training, ASEBA instruments can be easily translated for use in diverse cultures. Because mental-health professionals are not needed to administer most ASEBA forms, these forms are used for epidemiological surveys, clinical assessment, outcome evaluations, and research in many cultures. There are translations in over 80 languages and thousands of published reports of ASEBA use in over 67 cultures.

In addition to the many publications reporting use of ASEBA forms within particular cultures, numerous multicultural comparisons of ASEBA findings have been published. The first such comparisons were made between epidemiological samples of randomly selected Dutch and U.S. children who were rated on the CBCL and TRF. The Dutch data were obtained by Dr. Frank Verhulst, who is Professor and Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Erasmus University and Sophia Children’s Hospital in Rotterdam and former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The comparisons showed that Dutch children’s problem scale scores were nearly identical to American children's scores on both the CBCL and TRF (Achenbach, Verhulst, Baron, & Akkerhuis, 1987; Achenbach, Verhulst, Edelbrock, Baron, & Akkerhuis, 1987). Dr. Verhulst and his colleagues have subsequently published hundreds of studies using Dutch translations of ASEBA instruments.

Other bicultural comparisons have been reported for ASEBA data from Australia (Achenbach, Hensley, Phares & Grayson, 1990), China (Weine, Phillips, & Achenbach, 1995), France (Stanger, Fombonne, & Achenbach, 1994), Greece (MacDonald, Tsiantis, Achenbach, Motto-Stefanidi & Richardson, 1995), Jamaica (Lambert, Lyubansky, & Achenbach, 1998), Puerto Rico (Achenbach, Bird, Canino, Phares, Gould, & Rubio-Stipec, 1990), Russia (Grietens, Hellinckx, & De Munter, 1999), and Thailand (Weisz et al., 1987, 1989, 1993).

To provide comprehensive analyses across multiple cultures, a Dutch child psychiatrist, Dr. Alfons Crijnen, collaborated with Drs. Achenbach and Verhulst in comparing the CBCL scores of some 14,000 children from 12 cultures (Crijnen, Achenbach, & Verhulst, 1997, 1999). Although there were some significant multicultural differences, CBCL scale scores from most cultures were remarkably close to the "omnicultural mean" obtained by averaging scores from all the cultures. Analogous comparisons of YSR scores from over 7,000 youths in seven cultures also showed considerable similarity in mean problem scores (Verhulst et al., 2003).

Subsequent studies by Dr. Leslie Rescorla and colleagues from dozens of societies have analyzed tens of thousands of CBCLs from 31 societies, TRFs from 21 societies, and YSRs from 24 societies (Rescorla et al., 2007a, b, c). The analyses included multicultural comparisons of scores on the 2001 versions of the syndrome, DSM-oriented, Internalizing, Externalizing, and Total Problems scales, age/gender effects, and correlations between mean item scores for every pair of societies. Dr. Masha Ivanova and the same international team have tested the 2001 school-age syndrome structure by performing confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) on CBCLs, TRFs, and YSRs used in Dr. Rescorla's studies (Ivanova et al., 2007a, b, c). The data from all societies analyzed were found to fit the 2001 syndrome structure. An integrative overview of multicultural findings from both the empirically based and diagnostically based approaches is available in Multicultural Understanding of Child and Adolescent Psychopathology: Implications for Mental Health Assessment. The Bibliography of Published Studies Using the ASEBA lists some 1,900 publications under the "cross-cultural/multicultural" topic heading.

Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Achenbach