Delinquent behavior

Scale: Problem Behavior Frequency Scale (PBFS) — the Self-Report Delinquency Scale

What it measures:

  • The frequency with which a youth engages in delinquent behavior.

Intended age range: 11- to 14-year-olds; the items appear applicable to older adolescents as well.

Brief description: This scale of the PBFS consists of 8 items, each referring to a different behavior related to delinquency. Participants are asked to report how many times in the last month they've engaged in each behavior. Sample items include: “Taken something from a store without paying for it” and “Written things or sprayed paint on walls or sidewalks or cars where you were not supposed to.” Each item is rated on a 6-point scale: 0, 1-2, 3-5, 6-9, 10-19, or 20 or more (times).

Rationale: The Self-Report Delinquency Scale of the PBFS is relatively brief, has evidence of reliability and validity in a school-based sample and a sub-sample of high-risk students, and provides information on the frequency of non-violent delinquent behavior, a form of delinquency that may be more commonly exhibited by youth participating in many mentoring programs.

Cautions: This measure does not assess arrests, encounters with the law, or violent delinquent behavior.

Special administration information: Care should be taken to ensure that youth understand that they are reporting on the frequency of their engagement in the behaviors asked about over the last month.

How to score: Each item is scored on a six-point scale from 1 (None) to 6 (20 or more) and a total score is derived by summing across the items.

How to interpret findings: A higher score reflects a higher self-reported frequency of delinquent behavior.

Access and permissions: This scale is available for non-commercial use with no charge and is included in the following resource from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Measurement of Violence-Related Attitudes, Behaviors, and Influences Among Youth: A Compendium of Assessment Tools, 2nd edition (see p. 215).

Alternatives: The revised Self-Reported Delinquency Scale (SRD) is a good alternative for those interested in measuring both violent and nonviolent forms of delinquency. The SRD-revised is a 9-item brief version of the original 24-item SRD scale. Sample items include: “been involved in gang fights,” “hit one of your parents,” and “used force to get money or things from a teacher or adult at school.”


Citation: Dahlberg, L. L., Toal, S. B., Swahn, M., & Behrens C. B., (2005). Measuring violence-related attitudes, behaviors, and influences among youths: A compendium of assessment tools (2nd ed.). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (Available here.)

More in this category: « Problem Behavior Aggression »

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