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Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 583–595 | Cite as

The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ): the Factor Structure and Scale Validation in U.S. Adolescents

  • Jian-Ping He
  • Marcy Burstein
  • Anja Schmitz
  • Kathleen R. Merikangas
Article

Abstract

The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is one of the most commonly used instruments for screening psychopathology in children and adolescents. This study evaluated the hypothesized five-factor structure of the SDQ and examined its convergent validity against comprehensive clinical diagnostic assessments. Data were derived from the National Comorbidity Survey - Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), a nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescents aged 13 to 18 years. Parents/parent surrogates (n=6,483) was asked to complete a self-administered questionnaire including the SDQ and DSM-IV comprehensive diagnostic information on the participating adolescents. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted to assess the factor structure of the SDQ. The five-factor solution of the SDQ (including emotional, conduct, hyperactivity-inattention, peer relationship, and prosocial) provided a satisfactory fit to the data, and was invariant across sex, age, race/ethnicity and income subgroups. SDQ scores predicted a significantly increased probability of meeting criteria for a DSM-IV disorder, with better prediction for behavior disorders than for mood disorders. Decreasing the SDQ cutoffs to the 80th percentile significantly increased the sensitivity from 39% to 63% for the SDQ Total Difficulties Score, with an expected decrease in specificity from 93% to 87%. This work confirms the five-factor structure of the SDQ in an ethnically and sociodemogrpahically diverse community sample of adolescents. Our findings strengthen empirical evidence for the use of the parent-reported SDQ as a screening tool for DSM-IV behavioral and emotional disorders in adolescents identified in the general population.

Keywords

Strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) Construct validity National comorbidity survey-adolescent supplement (NCS-A) 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Mental Health (Z01 MH002808-08). The National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A) and the larger program of related NCS surveys are supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (U01-MH60220). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and should not be construed to represent the views of any of the sponsoring organizations, agencies or the U.S. government.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jian-Ping He
    • 1
  • Marcy Burstein
    • 1
  • Anja Schmitz
    • 1
  • Kathleen R. Merikangas
    • 1
  1. 1.Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch, Intramural Research ProgramNational Institute of Mental HealthBethesdaUSA

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