Early recognition of children's mental health problems calls for structured methods in front line services. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a commonly used short questionnaire in screening child's mental difficulties.
To test the reliability and descriptive properties of the SDQ in a community sample of Finnish 4-9-year-old children (n =?4178).
Both parents, two teachers in day-care or a teacher at school completed the SDQ. To control for possible bias, public health nurses rated their concern about every child's mental health, including non-participants.
The internal consistencies of the SDQ total score in all informants' reports were satisfactory to good. Agreement (Spearman rho) in total scores between parents was 0.65, between parent and teacher 0.43 and between two teachers in day-care 0.81. The stability in parent's reports over 12 weeks was good. The distributions of the informant-rated scores indicated significant and clinically important gender differences, and the 80th and 90th percentiles were generally below the international cut-off points. Public health nurses reported emotional or behavioural difficulties more commonly in non-participants (12%) than in participants (7%; p
Early recognition of children's mental health problems is crucial. Although the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a commonly used screening method, further research is needed on its validity and norms for young children.
The aims of the study were to confirm the adjusted lower (normal/borderline) and upper (borderline/abnormal) cut-offs for the SDQ in a Finnish community sample of 4-9-year-old children, and to explore the SDQ's ability to identify the children with mental health problems.
Parents and teachers completed the SDQs (n = 2666). The Development and Well-Being Assessment (DAWBA) was administered to parents and teachers of 646 children.
The overall participation rate was 57%. The suggested cut-offs for the SDQ total difficulties scale rated by parents and teachers were 2-5 points lower than the corresponding published British norms. The sensitivity for the total score normal/borderline cut-off (9/10) was 76% in the parent and 66% in the teacher reports and for the borderline/abnormal cut-off (11/12) 90% and 70% respectively. The respective specificity values were 69%, 63%, 74% and 66%. The area under curve (AUC) values of the higher cut-offs were good for parent (0.87) and satisfactory for teacher rated (0.76) total scores. The presence of a DAWBA-rater assigned diagnosis in the abnormal group compared with the normal group was sixfold in the parent and threefold in the teacher reported SDQs.
The suggested cut-offs were clearly lower than the British norms. Yet the properties of the method's discriminative validity were acceptable. Population specific norms, taking into account both the culture and children's age, seem necessary for screening and for international comparisons of the method's validity properties.
The aim of the study was to evaluate the feasibility of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).
Following the administration of the SDQ in medical check-ups of 4-9 year-old children (n = 2 682) the involved parents, teachers and public health nurses were asked to complete a feedback questionnaire of the SDQ.
Parents took a maximum of 10-15 minutes to complete the SDQ, and only the public health nurses reported that its use was rather burdensome. The SDQ was an age-appropriate method and it was helpful in increasing information and agreement about the child's mental health and need for support. Using the SDQ was a positive experience for parents, but they expected more dialogue with the professionals about the child's situation. The respondents criticised the questionnaire somewhat for being difficult to interpret and complete.
The SDQ was found to be a feasible method for screening children's mental health in primary health care together with parents, teachers and public health nurses. Using the SDQ was a positive experience for parents. However, they reminded the professionals of the importance of sensitive dialogue when assessing the mental health of the child.