Skip to main content Accessibility help

Strategic objectives for improving understanding of informant discrepancies in developmental psychopathology research

  • Andres De Los Reyes (a1)

Developmental psychopathology researchers and practitioners commonly conduct behavioral assessments using multiple informants' reports (e.g., parents, teachers, practitioners, children, and laboratory observers). These assessments often yield inconsistent conclusions about important questions in developmental psychopathology research, depending on the informant (e.g., psychiatric diagnoses and risk factors of disorder). Researchers have theorized why informant discrepancies exist and advanced methodological models of informant discrepancies. However, over 50 years of empirical data has uncovered little knowledge about these discrepancies beyond that they exist, complicate interpretations of research findings and assessment outcomes in practice, and correlate with some characteristics of the informants providing reports (e.g., demographics and mood levels). Further, recent studies often yield take-home messages about the importance of taking a multi-informant approach to clinical and developmental assessments. Researchers draw these conclusions from their work, despite multi-informant approaches to assessment long being a part of best practices in clinical and developmental assessments. Consequently, developmental psychopathology researchers and practitioners are in dire need of a focused set of research priorities with the key goal of rapidly advancing knowledge about informant discrepancies. In this paper, I discuss these research priorities, review work indicating the feasibility of conducting research addressing these priorities, and specify what researchers and practitioners would gain from studies advancing knowledge about informant discrepancies in developmental psychopathology research.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Andres De Los Reyes, Comprehensive Assessment and Intervention Program, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland at College Park, Biology/Psychology Building, Room 3123H, College Park, MD 20742; E-mail:
Hide All
Achenbach, T. M. (2006). As others see us: Clinical and research implications of cross-informant correlations for psychopathology. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 9498.
Achenbach, T. M. (2011). Definitely more than measurement error: But how should we understand and deal with informant discrepancies? Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 40, 8086.
Achenbach, T. M., McConaughy, S. H., & Howell, C. T. (1987). Child/adolescent behavioral and emotional problems: Implications of cross-informant correlations for situational specificity. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 213232.
Achenbach, T. M., & Rescorla, L. A. (2001). Manual for the ASEBA school-age forms and profiles. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Research Center for Children, Youth, & Families.
Baker, L. A., Jacobson, K. C., Raine, A., Lozano, D. I., & Bezdjian, S. (2007). Genetic and environmental bases of childhood antisocial behavior: A multi-informant twin study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116, 219235.
Baldwin, J. S., & Dadds, M. R. (2007). Reliability and validity of parent and child versions of the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children in community samples. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 252260.
Bartels, M., Boomsma, D. I., Hudziak, J. J., van Beijsterveldt, T. C. E. M., & van den Oord, E. J. C. G. (2007). Twins and the study of rater (dis)agreement. Psychological Methods, 12, 451466.
Borsboom, D., Mellenbergh, G. J., & van Heerden, J. (2004). The concept of validity. Psychological Review, 111, 10611071.
Casey, R. J., & Berman, J. S. (1985). The outcome of psychotherapy with children. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 388400.
Collishaw, S., Goodman, R., Ford, T., Rabe-Hesketh, S., & Pickles, A. (2009). How far are associations between child, family and community factors and child psychopathology informant-specific and informant-general? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 571580.
Comer, J. S., & Kendall, P. C. (2004). A symptom-level examination of parent–child agreement in the diagnosis of anxious youths. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 43, 878886.
De Los Reyes, A. (2011). Introduction to the special section: More than measurement error: Discovering meaning behind informant discrepancies in clinical assessments of children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 40, 19.
De Los Reyes, A., Alfano, C. A., & Beidel, D. C. (2010). The relations among measurements of informant discrepancies within a multisite trial of treatments for childhood social phobia. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 395404.
De Los Reyes, A., Alfano, C. A., & Beidel, D. C. (2011). Are clinicians' assessments of improvements in children's functioning “global”? Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 40, 281294.
De Los Reyes, A., Ehrlich, K. B., Swan, A. J., Luo, T., Van Wie, M., & Pabón, S. C. (2013). An experimental test of whether informants can report about child and family behavior based on settings of behavioral expression. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22, 177191.
De Los Reyes, A., Goodman, K. L., Kliewer, W., & Reid-Quiñones, K. (2010). The longitudinal consistency of mother–child reporting discrepancies of parental monitoring and their ability to predict child delinquent behaviors two years later. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 14171430.
De Los Reyes, A., Henry, D. B., Tolan, P. H., & Wakschlag, L. S. (2009). Linking informant discrepancies to observed variations in young children's disruptive behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 637652.
De Los Reyes, A., & Kazdin, A. E. (2005). Informant discrepancies in the assessment of childhood psychopathology: A critical review, theoretical framework, and recommendations for further study. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 483509.
De Los Reyes, A., & Kazdin, A. E. (2006). Conceptualizing changes in behavior in intervention research: The range of possible changes model. Psychological Review, 113, 554583.
De Los Reyes, A., & Kazdin, A. E. (2008). When the evidence says, “Yes, no, and maybe so”: Attending to and interpreting inconsistent findings among evidence-based interventions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 4751.
De Los Reyes, A., & Kazdin, A. E. (2009). Identifying evidence-based interventions for children and adolescents using the range of possible changes model: A meta-analytic illustration. Behavior Modification, 33, 583617.
De Los Reyes, A., Kundey, S. M. A., & Wang, M. (2011). The end of the primary outcome measure: A research agenda for constructing its replacement. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 829838.
De Los Reyes, A., & Marsh, J. K. (2011). Patients' contexts and their effects on clinicians' impressions of conduct disorder symptoms. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 40, 479485.
De Los Reyes, A., & Prinstein, M. J. (2004). Applying depression–distortion hypotheses to the assessment of peer victimization in adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33, 325335.
De Los Reyes, A., Thomas, S. A., Goodman, K. L., & Kundey, S. M. A. (2013). Principles underlying the use of multiple informants' reports. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 123149.
De Los Reyes, A., Youngstrom, E. A., Pabón, S. C., Youngstrom, J. K., Feeny, N. C., & Findling, R. L. (2011). Internal consistency and associated characteristics of informant discrepancies in clinic referred youths age 11 to 17 years. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 40, 3653.
De Los Reyes, A., Youngstrom, E. A., Swan, A. J., Youngstrom, J. K., Feeny, N. C., & Findling, R. L. (2011). Informant discrepancies in clinical reports of youths and interviewers' impressions of the reliability of informants. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 21, 417424.
Derks, E. M., Hudziak, J. J., van Beijsterveldt, T. C. E. M., Dolan, C. V., & Boomsma, D. I. (2006). Genetic analyses of maternal and teacher ratings on attention problems in 7-year-old Dutch twins. Behavior Genetics, 36, 833844.
Dirks, M. A., Boyle, M. H., & Georgiades, K. (2011). Psychological symptoms in youth and later socioeconomic functioning: Do associations vary by informant? Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 40, 1022.
Dirks, M. A., De Los Reyes, A., Briggs-Gowan, M. J., Cella, D., & Wakschlag, L. S. (2012). Embracing not erasing contextual variability in children's behavior: Theory and utility in the selection and use of methods and informants in the assessment of developmental psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53, 558574.
Donenberg, G. R., & Weisz, J. R. (1997). Experimental task and speaker effects on parent–child interactions of aggressive and depressed/anxious children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 25, 367387.
Duhig, A. M., Renk, K., Epstein, M. K., & Phares, V. (2000). Interparental agreement on internalizing, externalizing, and total behavior problems: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 7, 435453.
Fisher, S. L., Bucholz, K. K., Reich, W., Fox, L., Kuperman, S., Kramer, J., et al. (2006). Teenagers are right—Parents do not know much: An analysis of adolescent–parent agreement on reports of adolescent substance use, abuse, and dependence. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 30, 16991710.
Gonzales, N. A., Cauce, A. M., & Mason, C. A. (1996). Interobserver agreement in the assessment of parental behavior and parent–adolescent conflict: African American mothers, daughters, and independent observers. Child Development, 67, 14831498.
Goodman, K. L., De Los Reyes, A., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2010). Understanding and using informants' reporting discrepancies of youth victimization: A conceptual model and recommendations for research. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 13, 366383.
Goodman, S. H., & Gotlib, I. H. (1999). Risk for psychopathology in the children of depressed mothers: A developmental model for understanding mechanisms of transmission. Psychological Review, 106, 458490.
Granic, I., & Patterson, G. R. (2006). Toward a comprehensive model of antisocial development: A dynamic systems approach. Psychological Review, 113, 101131.
Grills, A. E., & Ollendick, T. H. (2002). Issues in parent–child agreement: The case of structured diagnostic interviews. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 5, 5783.
Hartley, A. G., Zakriski, A. L., & Wright, J. C. (2011). Probing the depths of informant discrepancies: Contextual influences on divergence and convergence. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 40, 5466.
Hawley, K. M., & Weisz, J. R. (2003). Child, parent, and therapist (dis)agreement on target problems in outpatient therapy: The therapist's dilemma and its implications. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 6270.
Holmbeck, G. N., Li, S. T., Schurman, J. V., Friedman, D., & Coakley, R. M. (2002). Collecting and managing multisource and multimethod data in studies of pediatric populations. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 27, 518.
Hunsley, J., & Mash, E. J. (2007). Evidence-based assessment. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 3, 2951.
Institute for Scientific Information. (2011). Researcher ID A1712-2002-S. Retrieved July 10, 2011, from
Kassam-Adams, N., Garcia-España, J. F., Miller, V. A., & Winston, F. (2006). Parent–child agreement regarding children's acute stress: The role of parent acute stress reactions. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 45, 14851493.
Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., & Newton, T. L. (2001). Marriage and health: His and hers. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 472503.
Koenig, K., De Los Reyes, A., Cicchetti, D., Scahill, L., & Klin, A. (2009). Group intervention to promote social skills in school-age children with pervasive developmental disorders: Reconsidering efficacy. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39, 11631172.
Kraemer, H. C., Measelle, J. R., Ablow, J. C., Essex, M. J., Boyce, W. T., & Kupfer, D. J. (2003). A new approach to integrating data from multiple informants in psychiatric assessment and research: Mixing and matching contexts and perspectives. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 15661577.
Kramer, T. L., Phillips, S. D., Hargis, M. B., Miller, T. L., Burns, B. J., & Robbins, J. M. (2004). Disagreement between parent and adolescent reports of functional impairment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 248259.
Krosnick, J. A. (1999). Survey research. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 537567.
Lapouse, R., & Monk, M. A. (1958). An epidemiologic study of behavior characteristics of children. American Journal of Public Health, 48, 11341144.
Loeber, R., Green, S. M., & Lahey, B. B. (1990). Mental health professionals' perception of the utility of children, mothers, and teachers as informants of childhood psychopathology. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 19, 136143.
Lorenz, F. O., Melby, J. N., Conger, R. D., & Xu, X. (2007). The effects of context on the correspondence between observational ratings and questionnaire reports of hostile behavior: A multitrait, multimethod approach. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 498509.
Mitsis, E. M., McKay, K. E., Schulz, K. P., Newcorn, J. H., & Halperin, J. M. (2000). Parent–teacher concordance for DSM-IV attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in a clinic-referred sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 39, 308313.
Neal, J. W., Cappella, E., Wagner, C., & Atkins, M. S. (2011). Seeing eye to eye: Predicting teacher–student agreement on classroom social networks. Social Development, 20, 376393.
Nunnally, J. C., & Bernstein, I. H. (1994). Psychometric theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw–Hill.
Owens, J. S., Goldfine, M. E., Evangelista, N. M., Hoza, B., & Kaiser, N. M. (2007). A critical review of self-perceptions and the positive illusory bias in children with ADHD. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 10, 335351.
Randazzo, K. V., Landsverk, J., & Ganger, W. (2003). Three informants' reports of child behavior: Parents, teachers, and foster parents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 13431350.
Renk, K. (2005). Cross-informant ratings of the behavior of children and adolescents: The “gold standard.” Journal of Child and Family Studies, 14, 457468.
Renk, K., & Phares, V. (2004). Cross-informant ratings of social competence in children and adolescents. Clinical Psychology Review, 24, 239254.
Richters, J. E. (1992). Depressed mothers as informants about their children: A critical review of the evidence for distortion. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 485499.
Rogosa, D., Brandt, D., & Zimowski, M. (1982). A growth curve approach to the measurement of change. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 726748.
Rogosa, D. R., & Willett, J. B. (1983). Demonstrating the reliability of the difference score in the measurement of change. Journal of Educational Measurement, 20, 335343.
Rosnati, R., Montirosso, R., & Barni, D. (2008). Behavioral and emotional problems among Italian international adoptees and non-adopted children: Father's and mother's reports. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 541549.
Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1996). Measurement error in psychological research: Lessons from 26 research scenarios. Psychological Methods, 1, 199223.
Taber, S. M. (2010). The veridicality of children's reports of parenting: A review of factors contributing to parent–child discrepancies. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 9991010.
Tackett, J. L., Waldman, I. D., & Lahey, B. B. (2009). Etiology and measurement of relational aggression: A multi-informant behavior genetic investigation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118, 722733.
Treutler, C. M., & Epkins, C. C. (2003). Are discrepancies among child, mother, and father reports on children's behavior related to parents' psychological symptoms and aspects of parent–child relationships? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31, 1327.
Wakschlag, L. S., Hill, C., Carter, A. S., Danis, B., Egger, H. L., Keenan, K., et al. (2008). Observational assessment of preschool disruptive behavior: Part I. Reliability of the Disruptive Behavior Diagnostic Observation Schedule (DB-DOS). Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 47, 622631.
Weisz, J. R., Jensen Doss, A., & Hawley, K. M. (2005). Youth psychotherapy outcome research: A review and critique of the evidence base. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 337363.
Youngstrom, E. A., Findling, R. L., & Calabrese, J. R. (2003). Who are the comorbid adolescents? Agreement between psychiatric diagnosis, youth, parent, and teacher report. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31, 231245.
Youngstrom, E., Izard, C., & Ackerman, B. (1999). Dysphoria-related bias in maternal ratings of children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 905916.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed