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The CBCL 1.5–5 and the identification of preschoolers with autism in Italy

  • F. Muratori (a1), A. Narzisi (a1), R. Tancredi (a1), A. Cosenza (a1), S. Calugi (a1), I. Saviozzi (a1), E. Santocchi (a1) and S. Calderoni (a1)...



To study the potential use of child behaviour checklist (CBCL) 1.5–5 scales for the early identification of preschoolers at risk of autism.


CBCL scores of three groups of preschoolers were compared: (1) an experimental group of 101 preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); (2) a control group of 95 preschoolers with other psychiatric disorders (OPD); (3) a control group of 117 preschoolers with typical development (TD). One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), logistic regression with odds ratio (OR) and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analyses were performed.


ANOVA revealed that ASD and OPD had significantly higher scores in almost all CBCL scales than TD. ASD presented significantly higher scores than OPD on Withdrawn, Attention Problems and Pervasive Developmental Problems (PDP) scales. Logistic regression analysis demonstrated that these same CBCL scales have validity in predicting the presence of an ASD towards both TD and OPD. ROC analysis indicated high sensitivity and specificity for PDP (0.85 and 0.90) and Withdrawn (0.89 and 0.92) scales when ASD is compared to TD. Specificity (0.60 for PDP and 0.65 for Withdrawn) decreases when comparing ASD and OPD


The PDP and Withdrawn scales have a good predictive validity so that they could be proposed as a first-level tool to identify preschoolers at risk of autism in primary care settings. Problems regarding the lower specificity when comparing ASD v. OPD are discussed.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Professor F. Muratori, Division of Child Neurology and Psychiatry, University of Pisa – Stella Maris Scientific Institute, Via dei Giacinti, 2, I-56018 Calambrone (Pisa), Italy. (Email:


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