Psychiatric symptoms in preschool children with PDD and clinic and comparison samples

J Autism Dev Disord. 2004 Aug;34(4):379-93. doi: 10.1023/b:jadd.0000037415.21458.93.


Objective: This study describes and compares the severity of DSM-IV symptoms in preschool children with diagnosed pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), clinic controls, and two community-based samples.

Method: Parents (/and teachers) completed the early child inventory-4 (ECI-4), a DSM-IV-referenced rating scale for four samples: PDD (n = 172/160) and nonPDD psychiatric clinic referrals (n=135/101) and youngsters in regular (n=507/407) and special (n =64/140) early childhood programs. Children ranged in age from 3 to 5 years old.

Results: With the exception of conduct problems, the PDD group generally received higher symptom severity ratings than the regular early childhood group, but the pattern of differences compared with the other two groups often varied by type of symptom and informant. Teachers rated the PDD and nonPDD clinic groups as having equally severe ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder symptoms. Teachers rated the PDD group as having more severe anxiety and depression symptoms than parents. The Asperger group was rated by both informants as more oppositional than the autism and PDDNOS subgroups. Teachers rated males in the regular early childhood sample as having more severe ADHD and aggressive symptoms than females, but this was not the case for the PDD sample.

Conclusion: Preschoolers with PDD exhibit more severe DSM-IV psychiatric symptoms than children in regular and special early childhood programs, and to some extent nonPDD psychiatric referrals. The concept of comorbidity warrants further exploration, as does informant-specific syndromes as validators of diagnostic constructs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / epidemiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Observer Variation
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors