Problem-solving ability

Scale: National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) - Problem-solving items

What it measures:

  • A youth's reported use of strategies to identify, select, and evaluate solutions to problems.

Intended age range: 10- to 21-year-olds.

Brief description: This measure consists of 4 items. Sample items include: “When you have a problem to solve, one of the first things you do is get as many facts about the problem as possible” and “After carrying out a solution to a problem, you usually try to analyze what went right and what went wrong.” Each item is rated on a 5-point scale: Strongly agree, Agree, Neither agree nor disagree, Disagree, or Strongly disagree.

Rationale: This measure was selected based on its relative brevity, promising evidence of reliability and validity, and support for its use with diverse populations of youth.

Cautions: The measure has been used with a national sample of youth ages 10 and older. However, the language of the items may prove difficult for some younger youth and for youth who require reading support.

Special administration information: None

How to score: Each item is scored from 1 (Strongly agree) to 5 (Strongly disagree). The total score is computed by summing across the items.

How to interpret findings: A higher score reflects greater youth perceptions of his or her ability to solve problems.

Access and permissions: The scale is available for non-commercial use with no charge and is provided here.

Alternatives: The Social Problem-Solving Inventory-Revised provides a more in-depth assessment of problem-solving abilities, with separate scales for several different facets of problem-solving (e.g., Positive Problem Orientation, Generation of Alternative Solutions). More information about this measure, which has been used in research with adolescents, and how to purchase it is available here. The American Camping Association has also developed several measures of problem-solving confidence for youth from ages 6 to 17 years old. More information on these measures and how to purchase them is available here.

Citations: Harris, K. M., Halpern, C. T., Whitsel, E., Hussey, J., Tabor, J., Entzel, P., & Udry, J. R. (2009). The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health: Research design. Retrieved from

Brown, J. S., Meadows, S. O., & Elder, G. J. (2007). Race-ethnic inequality and psychological distress: Depressive symptoms from adolescence to young adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1295-1311.

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