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The ‘DAWBA bands’ as an ordered-categorical measure of child mental health: description and validation in British and Norwegian samples

Abstract

Purpose

To describe and validate the ‘DAWBA bands’. These are novel ordered-categorical measures of child mental health, based on the structured sections of the Development and Well-Being Assessment (DAWBA).

Methods

We developed computer algorithms to generate parent, teacher, child and multi-informant DAWBA bands for individual disorders and for groups of disorder (e.g. ‘any emotional disorder’). The top two (out of 6) levels of the DAWBA bands were used as computer-generated DAWBA diagnoses. We validated these DAWBA bands in 7,912 British children (7–19 years) and 1,364 Norwegian children (11–13 years), using clinician-rated DAWBA diagnoses as a gold standard.

Results

In general, the prevalence of clinician-rated diagnosis increased monotonically across all levels of the DAWBA bands, and also showed a dose–response association with service use and risk factors. The prevalence estimates of the computer-generated DAWBA diagnoses were of roughly comparable magnitude to the prevalence estimates from the clinician-generated diagnoses, but the estimates were not always very close. In contrast, the estimated effect sizes, significance levels and substantive conclusions regarding risk factor associations were very similar or identical. The multi-informant and parent DAWBA bands performed especially well in these regards.

Conclusion

Computer-generated DAWBA bands avoid the cost and delay occasioned by clinical rating. They may, therefore, sometimes provide a useful alternative to clinician-rated diagnoses, when studying associations with risk factors, generating rough prevalence estimates or implementing routine mental health screening.

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Conflict of interest statement

AG and RG are directors and RG is the owner of Youthinmind, which provides no-cost and low-cost software and web sites related to the DAWBA. SC consulted to Youthinmind in the development of the DAWBA bands. EH is the director and owner of Careahead, which provides teaching and supervision to clinics on the use of the DAWBA. EH and RG’s opportunities to charge for clinical rating of the DAWBA may be reduced by the findings of this paper.

Author information

Correspondence to Anna Goodman.

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Goodman, A., Heiervang, E., Collishaw, S. et al. The ‘DAWBA bands’ as an ordered-categorical measure of child mental health: description and validation in British and Norwegian samples. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 46, 521–532 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-010-0219-x

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Keywords

  • Computer-generated diagnoses
  • Diagnostic interview
  • Child mental health
  • Prevalence
  • Associations