Classifying child and adolescent psychiatric disorder by problem checklists and standardized interviews

Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2017 Dec;26(4):e1544. doi: 10.1002/mpr.1544. Epub 2016 Nov 14.


This paper discusses the need for research on the psychometric adequacy of self-completed problem checklists to classify child and adolescent psychiatric disorder based on proxy assessments by parents and self-assessments by adolescents. We put forward six theoretical arguments for expecting checklists to achieve comparable levels of reliability and validity with standardized diagnostic interviews for identifying child psychiatric disorder in epidemiological studies and clinical research. Empirically, the modest levels of test-retest reliability exhibited by standardized diagnostic interviews - 0.40 to 0.60 based on kappa - should be achievable by checklists when thresholds or cut-points are applied to scale scores to identify a child with disorder. The few studies to conduct head-to-head comparisons of checklists and interviews in the 1990s concurred that no construct validity differences existed between checklist and interview classifications of disorder, even though the classifications of youth with psychiatric disorder only partially overlapped across instruments. Demonstrating that self-completed problem checklists can classify disorder with similar reliability and validity as standardized diagnostic interviews would provide a simple, brief, flexible way to measuring psychiatric disorder as both a categorical or dimensional phenomenon as well as dramatically lowering the burden and cost of assessments in epidemiological studies and clinical research.

Keywords: checklists; child psychiatric disorder; interviews; reliability; validity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Checklist / standards*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological / standards*
  • Mental Disorders / classification*
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / standards*