Child Indicators Research

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 471–484 | Cite as

Validity and Reliability of a Brief Symptom Checklist to Measure Psychological Health in School-Aged Children

  • Genevieve GariepyEmail author
  • Britt McKinnon
  • Mariane Sentenac
  • Frank J. Elgar


The psychological health of children is a global health concern. The international Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) study has surveyed the psychological health of youths in over 40 countries. The HBSC questionnaire includes a brief symptom checklist of psychological complaints, but it has not yet been validated. This study evaluated the construct validity of the psychological health self-report tool used in the HBSC study. We used data from 26,078 participants in the 2010 Canadian HBSC survey. The core HBSC questionnaire measured common psychosomatic complaints using the HBSC symptom checklist (HBSC-SCL). The Canadian survey included an additional series of questions that measure four dimensions of mental health (emotional problems, emotional well-being, behavioral problems, prosocial behavior). We used these items to evaluate the construct validity of psychological symptoms in the HBSC-SCL. We assessed internal construct validity using Cronbach’s alpha and external construct validity using factor analysis and structural equation modelling. Factor analysis showed that the HBSC-SCL measures two factors, psychological and somatic complaints. Psychological complaints included feeling low/depressed, irritable/bad tempered, nervous, and difficulties sleeping. Internal validity of the psychological subscale was good (α = 0.78). This 4-item subscale demonstrated convergent validity with indicators for emotional problems (correlation (r) = −0.79, p < 0.001) and emotional well-being (r = 0.48, p < 0.001), and discriminant validity with indicators for behavioral problems (r = −0.17, p < 0.001) and prosocial behavior (r = 0.02, p < 0.001). Results support the HBSC-SCL psychological subscale as a valid measure of psychological health in school-aged children. Future research is recommended to replicate findings in other youth populations.


Child Adolescent Mental health Epidemiologic measurements Validity and reliability Health survey Emotional health 



Cronbach’s alpha


Regression coefficient


Coefficient of determination


Comparative fit index


Health behavior in school-aged children


Health behavior in school-aged children symptom checklist


Pearson correlation coefficient


Root mean square error of approximation


Structural equation modelling


Standardized root mean square residual


Tucker–Lewis index


World health organization



The study was supported by funding provided by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study is a WHO/Euro collaborative study and funded by public sources in each member country. The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children International Coordinating Centre is located at St Andrew’s University, and the databank is managed at the University of Bergen. The Canadian HBSC study (Principal Investigators: John Freeman, William Pickett; National Coordinator: Matthew King) was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, with additional support from Health Canada.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 53 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Health and Social PolicyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Douglas Mental Health University InstituteMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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