Using item response theory to evaluate the children's behavior questionnaire: Considerations of general functioning and assessment length

D. Angus Clark, M. Brent Donnellan, C. Emily Durbin, Rebecca J. Brooker, Tricia K. Neppl, Megan Gunnar, Stephanie M. Carlson, Lucy Le Mare, Grazyna Kochanska, Philip A. Fisher, Leslie D. Leve, Mary K. Rothbart, Samuel P. Putnam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Although the Children's Behavior Questionnaire (CBQ; Rothbart, Ahadi, Hershey, & Fisher, 2001) is the most popular assessment for childhood temperament, its psychometric qualities have yet to be examined using Item Response Theory (IRT) methods. These methods highlight in detail the specific contributions of individual items for measuring different facets of temperament. Importantly, with 16 scales for tapping distinct aspects of child functioning (195 items total), the CBQ's length can be prohibitive in many contexts. The detailed information about item functioning provided by IRT methods is therefore especially useful. The current study used IRT methods to analyze the CBQ's 16 temperament scales and identify potentially redundant items. An abbreviated "IRT form" was generated based on these results and evaluated across four independent validation samples. The IRT form was compared to the original and short CBQ forms (Putnam & Rothbart, 2006). Results provide fine-grained detail on the CBQ's psychometric functioning and suggest it is possible to remove up to 39% of the original form's items while largely preserving the measurement precision and content coverage of each scale. This study provides considerable psychometric information about the CBQ's items and scales and highlights future avenues for creating even more efficient high-quality temperament assessments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)928-942
Number of pages15
JournalPsychological assessment
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Grant T32 AA007477 (F. Blow) from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Calibration sample data collection was supported by the Kovler Research Scholar Fund of The Family Institute at Northwestern University and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD064687). Validation sample 1 data collection supported by funds allocated to Samuel P. Putnam and Maria Gartstein from the National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.; Grant 5 T32 MH1893), awarded to University of Oregon, and from a new faculty award from Bowdoin College, awarded to Samuel P. Putnam. Validation Sample 2 data collection supported by National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH037911) and the National Science Foundation (DBS-9209559). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies. The online material referenced in this article can be found at the Open Science Framework (OSF) online repository at:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association.


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