BACKGROUND: Child psychiatric disorders are common and treatable, but often go undetected and therefore remain untreated. AIMS: To assess the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) as a potential means for improving the detection of child psychiatric disorders in the community. METHOD: SDQ predictions and independent psychiatric diagnoses were compared in a community sample of 7984 5- to 15-year-olds from the 1999 British Child Mental Health Survey. RESULTS: Multi-informant (parents, teachers, older children) SDQs identified individuals with a psychiatric diagnosis with a specificity of 94.6% (95% Cl 94.1-95.1%) and a sensitivity of 63.3% (59.7-66.9%). The questionnaires identified over 70% of individuals with conduct, hyperactivity, depressive and some anxiety disorders, but under 50% of individuals with specific phobias, separation anxiety and eating disorders. Sensitivity was substantially poorer with single-informant rather than multi-informant SDQs. CONCLUSIONS: Community screening programmes based on multi-informant SDQs could potentially increase the detection of child psychiatric disorders, thereby improving access to effective treatments.

Goodman, R., T. Ford, H. Simmons, R. Gatward and H. Meltzer (2000). 'Using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to screen for child psychiatric disorders in a community sample.' British Journal of Psychiatry 177: 534-539.DOI: 10.1192/bjp.177.6.534