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.


Nauta, M. H., Scholing, A., Rapee, R. M., Abbott, M., Spence, S. H., & Waters, A. (2004). A parent-report measure of children’s anxiety: psychometric properties and comparison with child-report in a clinic and normal sample. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42(7), 813-839. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(03)00200-6

Spence, S. H. (1998). A measure of anxiety symptoms among children. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36(5), 545-566. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(98)00034-5

Spence, S. H., Barrett, P. M., & Turner, C. M. (2003). Psychometric properties of the Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale with young adolescents. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 17(6), 605-625. doi: 10.1016/S0887-6185(02)00236-0

Spence, S. H., Rapee, R., McDonald, C., & Ingram, M. (2001). The structure of anxiety symptoms among preschoolers. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 39(11), 1293-1316.