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Using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to screen for child psychiatric disorders in a community sample

  • Robert Goodman (a1), Tamsin Ford (a1), Helen Simmons (a1), Rebecca Gatward (a2) and Howart Meltzer (a2)...
Abstract
Background

Child psychiatric disorders are common and treatable, but often go undetected and therefore remain untreated.

Aims

To assess the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) as a potential means for improving the detection of child psychiatric disorders in the community.

Method

SDQ predictions and independent psychiatric diagnoses were compared in a community sample of 7984 5- to 15-year-olds from the 1999 British Child Mental Health Survey.

Results

Multi-informant (parents, teachers, older children) SDQs identified individuals with a psychiatric diagnosis with a specificity of 94.6% (95% CI 94.1–95.1%) and a sensitivity of 63.3% (59.7–66.9%). The questionnaires identified over 70% of individuals with conduct, hyperactivity, depressive and some anxiety disorders, but under 50% of individuals with specific phobias, separation anxiety and eating disorders. Sensitivity was substantially poorer with single-informant rather than multi-informant SDQs.

Conclusions

Community screening programmes based on multi-informant SDQs could potentially increase the detection of child psychiatric disorders, thereby improving access to effective treatments.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Professor Robert Goodman, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

Support received from the UK Department of Health.

Footnotes
References
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Meltzer, H., Gatward, R., Goodman, R., et al (2000) Mental Health of Children and Adolescents in Great Britain. London: Stationery Office.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to screen for child psychiatric disorders in a community sample

  • Robert Goodman (a1), Tamsin Ford (a1), Helen Simmons (a1), Rebecca Gatward (a2) and Howart Meltzer (a2)...
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