Background: Reliable, valid, and easy-to-administer instruments to identify possible caseness and to provide proxies for clinical diagnoses are needed in epidemiological research on child and adolescent mental health.The aim of this study is to provide further validity data for a parent telephone interview focused on Autism--Tics, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), and other Comorbidities (A-TAC), for which reliability and preliminary validation data have been previously reported.
Methods: Parents of 91 children clinically diagnosed at a specialized Child Neuropsychiatric Clinic, 366 control children and 319 children for whom clinical diagnoses had been previously assigned were interviewed by the A-TAC over the phone. Interviewers were blind to clinical information. Different scores from the A-TAC were compared to the diagnostic outcome.
Results: Areas under ROC curves for interview scores as predictors of clinical diagnoses were around 0.95 for most disorders, including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), tic disorders, developmental coordination disorders (DCD) and learning disorders, indicating excellent screening properties. Screening cut-off scores with sensitivities above 0.90 (0.95 for ASD and AD/HD) were established for most conditions, as well as cut-off scores to identify proxies to clinical diagnoses with specificities above 0.90 (0.95 for ASD and AD/HD).
Conclusions: The previously reported validity of the A-TAC was supported by this larger replication study using broader scales from the A-TAC-items and a larger number of diagnostic categories. Short versions of algorithms worked as well as larger. Different cut-off levels for screening versus identifying proxies for clinical diagnoses are warranted. Data on the validity for mood problems and oppositional defiant/conduct problems are still lacking. Although the A-TAC is principally intended for epidemiological research and general investigations, the instrument may be useful as a tool to collect information in clinical practice as well.