Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire
The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a screening tool for measuring psychological adjustment in children and aims to detect any emotional or behavioural problems. It is available in more than 80 languages and is one of the most widely used tools for measuring child mental health.
The SDQ can be used to screen children and adolescents 2 - 17 years. Parent and teacher versions are available that can be completed on behalf of the child when they are too young to self-complete, or to give a different perspective on the young person. Modified versions using slightly different wording are available for adolescents to self-report, or parents/ teachers of 3-4 year olds. An 'impact supplement' is available which enables additional information to be recorded by the parent/teacher, and an additional supplement of follow-up questions can be used after an intervention has taken place.
In addition to the general population the CORC website advises that "Clinical experience indicates that the SDQ may be appropriate to use with CYP with mild learning difficulties" although is not advisable for use with moderate to severe learning difficulties.
Method of Use
The SDQ can be completed on paper or online by the child (depending on age and ability), adolescent, parent or teacher.
It consists of 25 statements which ask about psychological attributes and address 5 areas:
- Emotional symptoms
- Conduct problems
- Hyperactivity/ Inattention
- Peer relationship problems
- Prosocial behaviour
Each statement requires the respondant to answer "Not true", "Somewhat true" or "Certainly true". Some examples are:
"Considerate of other people's feelings"
"Easily distracted, concentration wanders"
"Often volunteers to help others (parents, teachers, other children)"
The responses are then scored on the SDQ website using a computerised scoring method which automatically generates a report, or by hand (details of how to score and interpret the questionnaire are found on the Youth in Mind website).
Reliability, Validity and Responsiveness
Goodman, R found the SDQ to be a satisfactorily reliable and valid measure for measuring adjustment and psychopathology of children and adolescents.
Stone et al found the parent and teacher versions in children aged 4-7 years to be an adequately reliable and valid screening tool.
Croft et al found the pre-school version for use with 3-4 year olds to be satisfactorily reliable, valid and responsive.
Yao et al found moderate test-retest reliability in a sample of Chinese adolescents.
Lundh et al found good discriminant validity in a study of 14-15 year old Swedish adolescents.
Youth in mind website: More information on SDQ, questionnaires to view and download, scoring information.
CORC website: Child Outcomes Research Consortium, more information on SDQ, links and information on other tools.
- CORC. Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. www.corc.uk.net/outcome-experience-measures/strengths-and-difficulties-questionnaire/ (accessed 14 Sept 2018).
- Goodman R. Psychometric Properties of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. Vol 40;11: 1337-1345
- Stone LL, Janssens JMAM, Vermulst AA, Van Der Maten M, Engels RCME, Otten R. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: psychometric properties of the parent and teacher version in children aged 4–7. BMC Psychology. 2015;3(1):4. doi:10.1186/s40359-015-0061-8.
- Croft S, Stride C, Maughan B, Rowe R. Validity of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire in Preschool-Aged Children. Pediatrics May 2015, 135 (5) e1210-e1219; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2014-2920
- Yao, S., Zhang, C., Zhu, X., Jing, X., McWhinnie, C. M., & Abela, J. R. Z. Measuring Adolescent Psychopathology: Psychometric Properties of the Self-Report Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire in a sample of Chinese adolescents. 2009 J Adolesc Health. 45:55–62.
- Lundh, L.G., Wangby-Lundh, M., & Bjarehed, J Self reported emotional and behavioral problems in Swedish 14 to 15-year-old adolescents: A study with the self-report version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. 2008 Scand J Psycol 49:523–532.