Evidence based assessment/Instruments/Strength and difficulties questionnaire

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The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a self-report inventory behavioral screening questionnaire for children and adolescents ages 2 through 17 years old, developed by United Kingdom child psychiatrist Robert N. Goodman.

Scoring and interpretation[edit]

Respondents are asked to indicate whether a specific attribute is “not true”, “somewhat true”, or “certainly true”. There are four versions of the short form:

  • Three parent/teacher versions for children ages 2–4, 4-10, and 11-17,
  • One self-report version for children ages 11–17.

Scores on the attributes section range from 0-40, with prosocial behavior scale scores not included in the total score. All versions of the SDQ ask 25 questions sorted into 5 scales. Four of these are potential problems, and one is strength-related.

Subscale
(rated 0-2 for each question, maximum score of 10)
Score and description Notes
Emotional symptoms subscale
(Questions 1-5)
Parent report:
0-3: Normal behavior
4: Borderline abnormal behavior
5-10: Abnormal behavior
Teacher report:
0-4: Normal behavior
5: Borderline abnormal behavior
6-10: Abnormal behavior
Conduct problems subscale
(Questions 6-10)
Parent or Teacher report:
0-2: Normal behavior
3: Borderline abnormal behavior
4-10: Abnormal behavior
Question 7 reverse scored*
Hyperactivity/inattention subscale
(Questions 11-15)
Parent or Teacher report:
0-5: Normal behavior
6: Borderline abnormal behavior
7-10: Abnormal behavior
Questions 14 and 15 reverse scored*
Peer relationship problems subscale
(Questions 16-20)
Parent report:
0-2: Normal behavior
3: Borderline abnormal behavior
4-10: Abnormal behavior
Teacher report:
0-3: Normal behavior
4: Borderline abnormal behavior
5-10: Abnormal behavior
Questions 17 and 18 reverse scored*
Prosocial behavior subscale
(Questions 21-25)
Parent or Teacher report:
6-10: Normal behavior
5: Borderline abnormal behavior
0-4: Abnormal behavior
Internalizing score
(summing emotional symptoms and peer relationship problems)
Not available
Externalizing score
(summing conduct problems and hyperactivity/inattention)
Not available
Total score
(summing scores from questions 1-20)
Parent report:
0-13: Normal behavior
14-16: Borderline abnormal behavior
17 and above: Abnormal behavior
Teacher report:
0-11: Normal behavior
12-15: Borderline abnormal behavior
15 and above: Abnormal behavior
  • *Reverse scoring means that responses of “not true” receive 2 points, responses of “somewhat true” receive 1 point, and responses of “certainly true” receive 0 points.

Other scoring[edit]

The same 25 items are included in questionnaires for completion by the parents or teachers of 4- to 16-year-olds.[1]

A slightly modified informant-rated version for the parents or nursery teachers of 2- to 4-year-olds. 22 items are identical, the item on reflectiveness is softened, and 2 items on antisocial behaviour are replaced by items on oppositionality.

Questionnaires for self-completion by adolescents ask about the same 25 traits, though the wording is slightly different as it is in the first person (e.g. 'I often worry' instead of 'Many worries, often seems worried'). This self-report version is suitable for young people aged around 11-17, depending on their level of understanding and literacy.

B. An impact supplement[edit]

Several two-sided versions of the SDQ are available with the 25 items on strengths and difficulties on the front of the page and an impact supplement on the back. These extended versions of the SDQ ask whether the respondent thinks the young person has a problem, and if so, enquire further about chronicity, distress, impairment in everyday activities, and burden to others. This provides useful additional information for clinicians and researchers with an interest in psychiatric caseness and the determinants of service use.[2]

C. Follow-up questions[edit]

The follow-up versions of the SDQ include not only the 25 basic items and the impact question, but also two additional follow-up questions for use after an intervention of after visits to a clinic:

  1. How have the intervention / clinic visits changed the child's problems?
  2. Has the intervention helped in other ways, e.g. making the problems more bearable?

To increase the chance of detecting change, the follow-up versions of the SDQ ask about 'the last month', as opposed to 'the last six months or this school year', which is the reference period for the standard versions. Follow-up versions also omit the question about the chronicity of problems.

How to score the SDQ[edit]

The SDQ scoring site allows one to score paper copies of a parent, teacher and/or self-report SDQ free-of-charge, and generates a brief report. Briefly, each of the five scales of the SDQ are scored from 0-10, and one can add up four of these (emotional, conduct, hyperactivity and peer problems) to create a total difficulty score (range 0-40).[1] One can also add the emotional and peer items together to get an internalising problems score (range 0-20) and add the conduct and hyperactivity questions together to get an externalising score (range 0-20).

External links[edit]

  • 1.0 1.1 Goodman, R., The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: a research note. J Child Psychol Psychiatry, 1997. 38(5): p. 581-6
  • Goodman, R., The extended version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire as a guide to child psychiatric caseness and consequent burden. J Child Psychol Psychiatry, 1999. 40(5): p. 791-9.