The Child and Adolescent Scale of Irrationality: Validation Data and Mental Health Correlates

By Bernard, Michael E.; Cronan, Felicity | Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, January 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

The Child and Adolescent Scale of Irrationality: Validation Data and Mental Health Correlates


Bernard, Michael E., Cronan, Felicity, Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy


A revised Child and Adolescent Scale of Irrationality (Bernard & Laws, 1988) was administered to 567 children and adolescents to determine the construct validity of Albert Ellis's theory of rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT) as applied to childhood irrational thought. Participants also completed Spielberger's Trait Anxiety, Anger and Curiosity scales in order to be able to examine the relationships among childhood irrational thought, emotionality and to establish convergent/divergent validity. Teachers rated each participating student on the dimensions of emotional problems, low effort (in school work), and behavior problems. A principal components analysis with varimax rotation produced a four-factor solution ("Self-downing," "Intolerance of Frustrating Rules," "Intolerance of Work Frustration," and "Demands for Fairness"). Significant correlations were obtained among Total Irrationality and the four irrational subscales with trait anxiety, anger, as well as with teacher ratings of students. Aspects of Ellis's theory were confirmed while the emergence of two forms of low frustration tolerance and the primacy of self-downing may require a reconceptualization of the nature of irrational thought in the childhood period.

Rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is now recognized as an important therapy with children and adolescents who experience emotional and behavioral problems (e.g., Bernard & DiGiuseppe, 1990; 1994; Bernard & Joyce, 1993; Ellis & Bernard, 1983). In spite of its widespread popularity with practitioners as well as research which supports its effectiveness with a wide range of childhood problems (Hajzler & Bernard, 1991; Morris, 1993),there is a lack of a psychometrically sound and theoretically valid instrument for assessing the irrational beliefs of children and adolescents. REBT proposes that (1) irrational beliefs are concomitant with and help to create emotional problems (e.g., high anxiety, rage, depression) in younger populations (e.g., Bernard & Joyce, 1984), and (2) modifying irrational beliefs improves childhood psychological functioning (e.g., Bernard, 1990b).

Three REBT-oriented psychometric instruments have been designed for use with younger populations: The Ideas Inventory (Kassinove, Crisci, & Tiegerman, 1977), Children's Survey of Rational Beliefs (Knaus, 1974), and Shorkey and Saski's (1983) adaptation of the adult-level Rational Behavior Inventory (Shorkey & Whiteman, 1977). Of these instruments, only the Ideas Inventory has reported any reliability and validity data. A problem with all of these instruments relates to the issue raised by Smith (1982) and Zurawski and Smith (1987) of including items in scales of irrationality which are behavioral and emotional in content rather than exclusively cognitive. All of the aforementioned instruments include noncognitively worded items, thereby artificially inflating the reported correlations between cognition, emotion, and behavior.

Another major weakness of the current measures of childhood irrationality is that they do not reflect recent developments in Ellis's conceptualization of irrationality (e.g., Ellis & Dryden, 1987). Ellis has modified his original list of 11 major irrational beliefs (Ellis & Harper, 1975) to three core irrational beliefs: (a) I must do well and win approval, or else I rate as a rotten person; (b) Others must treat me considerately and kindly and in precisely the way I want them to treat me; if they don't society and the universe should severely blame, damn, and punish them for their inconsiderateness; (c) Conditions under which I live must be arranged so that I get practically all that I want comfortably, quickly, and easily and get virtually nothing that I don't want (Ellis & Bernard, 1985). The currently available instruments were designed to assess Ellis's original 11 irrational beliefs.

Ellis has also emphasized in his recent writings that "demandingness" (e. …

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