Using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to screen for child psychiatric disorders in a community sample

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2003 Feb-May;15(1-2):166-72. doi: 10.1080/0954026021000046128.


Child psychiatric disorders are common and treatable, but often go undetected and therefore remain untreated. To assess the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) as a potential means for improving the detection of child psychiatric disorders in the community, SDQ predictions and independent psychiatric diagnoses were compared in a community sample of 7984 5-15 year olds from the 1999 British Child Mental Health Survey. Multi-informant (parents, teachers, older children) SDQs identified individuals with a psychiatric diagnosis with a specificity of 94.6% (95% Cl, 94.1-95.1%) and a sensitivity of 63.3% (59.7-66.9%). The questionnaires identified over 70% of individuals with conduct, hyperactivity, depressive, and some anxiety disorders, but fewer than 50% of individuals with specific phobias, separation anxiety and eating disorders. Sensitivity was substantially poorer with single-informant rather than multi-informant SDQs. Community screening programmes based on multi-informant SDQs could potentially increase the detection of child psychiatric disorders, thereby improving access to effective treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*