Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale (SCAS)

The Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale (SCAS) developed by Spence (1998), is a self-report measure designed to assess the severity of anxiety symptoms in children relating to separation anxiety, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic agoraphobia, generalised anxiety and fears of physical injury. The major sample involved in the acquisition of normative data included 2,052 children, 8-12 years of age, recruited from primary schools in Brisbane, Australia. The scale was primarily developed as most child-report measures of anxiety fail to examine anxiety symptoms that relate to specific anxiety disorders, such as separation anxiety disorder. Secondly, most of the measures available are downward extensions of adult measures of anxiety and are based on the assumptions that childhood anxiety closely resembles adult anxiety (Spence, 1998).

The scale consists of 44 items which can be filled out by the child. Thirty-eight of the items reflect specific symptoms of anxiety, while 6 relate to positive, filler items to reduce negative response bias, such as, “I am the most popular amongst other kids my own age”. The scale is quick and easy to administer, taking only 10 minutes. Items are consistent with specific DSM-IV anxiety disorders. Participants are asked to rate the degree to which they experience a symptom on a 4-point frequency scale, Never, Sometimes, Often and Always. Sample items from the separation anxiety subscale include, “I worry about being away from my parents” and “I feel scared if I have to sleep on my own”. Sample items from the obsessive-compulsive subscale include, “I have to keep checking that I have done things right (like the switch is off, or the door is locked)” and “I have to do some things in just the right way to stop bad things happening” (Spence, 1998).

The total score may be computed from adding together all the subscale scores. The sub-scale scores are computed by adding the individual item scores on the set of items within that domain. Scores within one standard deviation (ie. a T-score of 10) above the mean on any dimension are regarded as being within the normal range on that dimension. A T-score of 60 is indicative of sub-clinical or elevated levels of anxiety. This justifies further investigation and confirmation of diagnostic status using clinical interview.

Confirmatory factor analysis demonstrates that the SCAS items load strongly upon the factors that they purport to measure. Internal consistency (reliability) for the total scale is extremely high (.92) confirming that the items of the scale are measuring the same construct. The internal consistency for the subscales is also acceptable, .82 (panic-agoraphobia); .70 (separation anxiety); .70 (social phobia); .60 (physical injury fears); .73 (obsessive-compulsive) and .73 (generalised anxiety). Test-retest reliability was examined in a sample of 344 children who were reassessed after 6-months after the initial data collection which showed a test-retest reliability coefficient of .60. This suggests reasonably high reliability over a 6-month period for the total score. Test-retest reliabilities were lower for the individual subscales, indicating children’s reports of anxiety symptoms tend to decrease after a six-month retest interval. The SCAS total score correlates significantly (.71) with the Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale (RCMAS).

Since the development of the SCAS a parent version (Nauta et al., 2004), a pre-school version (Spence, Rapee, McDonald, & Ingram, 2001) and an adolescent version (Spence, Barrett, & Turner, 2003) has been developed, validated and readily available. The SCAS is freely available and provides a measure of anxiety symptoms related to specific anxiety disorders. The SCAS is used in clinical contexts for both assessment and evaluation purposes. It is also used to identify children at risk of developing anxiety problems and for monitoring outcome intervention. The developers of the SCAS stipulate a diagnosis should be made with the addition of a structured clinical interview.


1. I worry about things.
2. I am scared of the dark.
3. When I have a problem‚ I get a funny feeling in my stomach.
4. I feel afraid.
5. I would feel afraid of being on my own at home.
6. I feel scared when I have to take a test.
7. I feel afraid if I have to use public toilets or bathrooms.
8. I worry about being away from my parents.
9. I feel afraid that I will make a fool of myself in front of people.
10. I worry that I will do badly at my school work.
11. I am popular amongst other kids my own age.
12. I worry that something awful will happen to someone in my family.    
13. I suddenly feel as if I can’t breathe when there is no reason for this.
14. I have to keep checking that I have done things right (like the switch is off‚ or the door is locked).
15. I feel scared if I have to sleep on my own.
16. I have trouble going to school in the mornings because I feel nervous or afraid.
17. I am good at sports.
18. I am scared of dogs.
19. I can’t seem to get bad or silly thoughts out of my head.
20. When I have a problem‚ my heart beats really fast.      
21. I suddenly start to tremble or shake when there is no reason for this
21. I worry that something bad will happen to me.
22. I am scared of going to the doctors or dentists.
23. When I have a problem‚ I feel shaky.
24. I am scared of being in high places or elevators (lifts).
25. I am a good person.
26. I have to think of special thoughts to stop bad things from happening (like numbers or words).
27. I feel scared if I have to travel in the car‚ or on a Bus or a train.
28. I worry what other people think of me.
29. I am afraid of being in crowded places (like shopping centers‚ the movies‚ buses‚ busy playgrounds.
30. I feel happy.
31. All of a sudden I feel really scared for no reason at all.
32. I am scared of insects or spiders.
33. I suddenly become dizzy or faint when there is no reason for this.      
34. I feel afraid if I have to talk in front of my class.
35. My heart suddenly starts to beat too quickly for no reason.
36. I worry that I will suddenly get a scared feeling when there is nothing to be afraid of.
37. I like myself.
38. I am afraid of being in small closed places‚ like tunnels or small rooms.
39. I have to do some things over and over again (like washing my hands‚ cleaning or putting things in a certain order).    
40. I get bothered by bad or silly thoughts or pictures in my mind.
41. I have to do some things in just the right way to stop bad things happening.
42. I am proud of my school work.
43. I would feel scared if I had to stay away from home overnight.
44. Is there something else that you are really afraid of?  Yes‚ No
If so‚ how often are you afraid of this thing?
 
 
generalized anxiety‚ panic/agoraphobia‚ social phobia‚ separation anxiety‚ obsessive compulsive disorder and physical injury fears
 
 
0=Never‚ 1=Sometimes‚ 2=Often‚ 3=Always
 

Spence. S.H.‚ (1997). Structure of Anxiety Symptoms Among Children: A Confirmatory Factor-Analytic Study. J Abnorm Psych 106(2): 280-297.

Spence. S.H.‚ (1998). A Measure of Anxiety Symptoms Among Children. Behav Res Ther 545-566.

Spence‚ S.H.‚ Rapee‚ R.‚ McDonald‚ C.‚ & Ingram‚ M. (2001). The structure of anxiety symptoms among preschoolers. Behaviour Research and Therapy‚ 39‚ 1293 - 1316.

Spence. S.H ‚ Barrett. P.M‚ Turner. C.M. (2003).Psychometric Properties of the Spence Children's Anxiety Scale with Young Adolescents. J Anxiety Disord 17(6): 605-625.

Mousavi‚ R.‚ Moradi‚ A.R.‚ Farzad‚ V.‚ Mahdavi‚ E.‚ Spence‚ S.‚ (2007)‚ Psychometric Properties of the Spence Children's Anxiety Scale with an Iranian Sample‚ International psychology journal‚ 1(1)‚ 1-16.