Adjective Checklist

The Adjective Checklist (ACL), developed in 1980, is a measure of children’s attitudes utilizing a checklist format first employed by Gough (1952). The ACL has been employed in more than thirty studies to assess children’s attitudes toward persons with mental retardation visual impairments, autism, obesity, cancer, and physical disabilities.

The ACL utilizes an open-ended format that allows children to select as many positive and negative adjectives from a provided list to describe a specific person (target). The open-ended approach of the ACL does not restrict children to making judgments that they may not ordinarily make, the way a forced choice format might.

The ACL was developed by asking large samples of children in grades one through six to identify terms they would use to describe a person they like and a person they did not like. Those terms that were mentioned most often were compiled into a list, and new samples of children were asked to judge each term as a “good” thing or a “bad” thing to say about someone. As a result, thirty-four adjectives were identified that describe a person’s affective feelings, physical appearance, academic behavior, and social behavior.

The ACL can be administered to children individually or in groups by asking the children to use the checklist to describe a particular target. The target may be either a hypothetical student depicted in a videotaped vignette, photograph, or verbal description, or a real individual. In each instance the target is presented and then the child is asked to describe the target using as few or as many words from the list as he or she would like.

The ACL and supporting materials are available upon request by emailing Please inform CSDE if you plan to use this instrument or some modification.

For a list of studies that employ the ACL/FAS, please click here.