Screening for adolescent depression: a comparison of depression scales

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1991 Jan;30(1):58-66. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199101000-00009.


The ability of two depression scales, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), to identify cases of DSM-III-R major depression and dysthymia was investigated in a large, community sample of high school students. Receiver operating characteristics analyses indicated that different caseness criteria should be used for boys and girls for both the CES-D and the BDI. Internal consistency-reliability and sensitivity and specificity for detecting current episodes of current depression and dysthymia were adequate and comparable to those found with adult samples, but both the CES-D and the BDI generated many false positives. Multiple screening using the "serial" strategy increased positive predictive power substantially for both the CES-D and the BDI, whereas using the "parallel" strategy had very little effect on the efficacy of the two screeners. The results indicate that neither the BDI nor the CES-D should be used by themselves as methods for case ascertainment in either epidemiological or experimental studies, although the BDI does function somewhat better than the CES-D as a screener.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics