Spence Children's Anxiety Scale (SCAS)

The Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale (SCAS) is a psychological assessment tool designed to evaluate anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents. Developed by Australian psychologist Susan H. Spence in 1998, the scale aims to identify the presence and severity of anxiety symptoms across various domains specific to this age group. The SCAS is based on the premise that children experience anxiety differently from adults, both in terms of the situations that trigger anxiety and how symptoms are manifested. As such, it covers six domains: separation anxiety, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attack and agoraphobia, physical injury fears, and generalized anxiety disorder. The scale is widely utilized by researchers and clinicians worldwide to screen for anxiety disorders, to inform treatment planning, and to monitor changes in anxiety symptoms over time.

The development of the SCAS was guided by the need for a comprehensive, child-specific measure that is both reliable and valid. The scale consists of 44 items that children rate on a 4-point scale, indicating the frequency of their anxiety symptoms. This self-report measure is complemented by a parent version, which assesses the parent’s perception of their child’s anxiety symptoms. The inclusion of a parent version allows for a multi-informant approach to assessing child anxiety, recognizing that children may not always be aware of or able to articulate their anxiety symptoms. The scale has been subject to numerous validation studies and has been found to possess good psychometric properties, including high internal consistency, good test-retest reliability, and valid discrimination between children with and without anxiety disorders.

The SCAS is not only a tool for clinical assessment but also serves as a valuable resource in research contexts. It has facilitated a deeper understanding of the prevalence and nature of anxiety disorders among children and adolescents. Furthermore, it has contributed to the examination of the efficacy of various treatment approaches for childhood anxiety. The scale’s wide translation and cultural adaptation into over 20 languages underscore its global applicability and relevance. Despite its widespread use, researchers and practitioners are encouraged to consider cultural differences and contextual factors when interpreting SCAS scores, as these can influence children’s responses and the manifestation of anxiety symptoms. Overall, the SCAS is a key instrument in the field of child psychology, providing insights into the complex nature of childhood anxiety and supporting the development of targeted interventions.

Click on the circle that shows how often each of these things happen to you. There are no right or wrong answers.

  Never Sometimes Often Always
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.
22. I worry that something bad will happen to me.
23. I am scared of going to the doctors or dentists.
24. When I have a problem, I feel shaky.
25. I am scared of being in high places or elevators (lifts).
26. I am a good person.
27. I have to think of special thoughts to stop bad things from happening (like numbers or words).
28. I feel scared if I have to travel in the car, or on a bus or a train.
29. I worry what other people think of me.
30. I am afraid of being in crowded places (like shopping centers, the movies, buses, busy playgrounds.
31. I feel happy.
32. All of a sudden I feel really scared for no reason at all.
33. I am scared of insects or spiders.
34. I suddenly become dizzy or faint when there is no reason for this.
35. I feel afraid if I have to talk in front of my class.
36. My heart suddenly starts to beat too quickly for no reason.
37. I worry that I will suddenly get a scared feeling when there is nothing to be afraid of.
38. I like myself.
39. I am afraid of being in small closed places, like tunnels or small rooms.
40. I have to do some things over and over again (like washing my hands, cleaning or putting things in a certain order).
41. I get bothered by bad or silly thoughts or pictures in my mind.
42. I have to do some things in just the right way to stop bad things happening.
43. I am proud of my school work.
44. I would feel scared if I had to stay away from home overnight.
45. Is there something else that you are really afraid of? How often are you afraid of this thing?
  1. SH Spence. Structure of Anxiety Symptoms Among Children: A Confirmatory Factor-Analytic Study. 106(2): Journal of Abnormal Psychology 280-297 (). [PDF]
  2. SH Spence. A Measure of Anxiety Symptoms Among Children. Behaviour Research and Therapy 545-566 ().
  3. SH Spence, PM Barrett, CM Turner. Psychometric Properties of the Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale with Young Adolescents. 17(6): Journal of Anxiety Disorders 605-625 ().