Background: Previous measures of pediatric depression have shown inconsistent validity in groups with differing demographics, comorbid diagnoses, and clinic or non-clinic origins. The current study re-examines the criterion validity of child- and parent-versions of the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ-C, MFQ-P) in a heterogeneous sample of children and adolescents from clinic and non-clinic sources.
Methods: Among 470 consecutive youth completing semi-structured interviews at a university-based child psychiatry center, total scores from the 33-item MFQ-C and 34-item MFQ-P were examined across subjects with and without mood disorders using analysis of variance, and receiver operating characteristics analysis.
Results: Mean scores of the MFQ-C and MFQ-P, respectively, differed significantly (p < .0005) across youth having major depressive episodes (MDE) (33 and 32, n = 77), mood disorders not meeting criteria for current MDE (24 and 28, n = 75), and no mood disorders (12 and 10, n = 318). In the overall sample, areas under the curve (AUC) for discriminating MDE and any mood disorder, respectively, were .85 and .83 on the MFQ-C, .86 and .90 on the MFQ-P, and .89 and .90 on the MFQ-C and MFQ-P averaged together, suggesting moderate to high criterion validity. Similar findings were noted in subgroups divided by age, sex, race, comorbid psychopathology, and clinic or non-clinic origins. AUCs of these MFQ scores compared favorably with those of the Beck's Depressive Inventory, the Child Behavior Checklist's Anxious/Depressed scale and the Children's Depressive Rating Scale-Revised by the same raters. A score of 29 on the MFQ-C (positive screen rate 21%, sensitivity 68%, specificity 88%) or 27 on the MFQ-P (positive screen rate 23%, sensitivity 61%, specificity 85%) optimally discriminated youth with MDE from the rest of the sample.
Conclusions: The MFQ-C and MFQ-P, especially used in combination, validly identify MDE or other mood disorders in youth diverse in demographic and clinical characteristics.