Overview

The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a brief emotional and behavioural screening questionnaire for children and young people. The tool can capture the perspective of children and young people, their parents and teachers.

There are currently three versions of the SDQ: a short form, a longer form with an impact supplement (which assesses the impact of difficulties on the child’s life) and a follow-up form. The 25 items in the SDQ comprise 5 scales of 5 items each. The scales include:

1) Emotional symptoms subscale
2) Conduct problems subscale
3) Hyperactivity/inattention subscale
4) Peer relationships problem subscale
5) Prosocial behaviour subscale

The SDQ can be used for various purposes, including clinical assessment, evaluation of outcomes, research and screening.

Property Definiton SDQ
Reliability Degree to which respondents in a similar sample had similar scores No information at present
Internal consistency The degree to which similar items within a scale correlate with each other

There are differing views in the literature with regard to the reliability of the SDQ. 

Some articles say the SDQ exhibits strong internal consistency (Yao et al., 2009), some say the SDQ shows satisfactory internal consistency (Goodman, 2001) and others say there are concerns regarding the reliability of the subscales, with most subscales showing low internal consistency. It has been suggested that the SDQ total difficulties score show just be used for screening purposes (Mieloo et al., 2012).

Test-retest reliability Degree to which the same respondents have the same score after period of time when trait shouldn't have changed SDQ showed moderate test-retest reliability (Yao et al., 2009)
Concurrent validity Correlation of the measure with others measuring same concept SDQ shows good concurrent validity (Muris, Meesters & van den Berg, 2003)
Discriminant validity Lack of correlation with opposite concepts SDQ showed good discriminant validity (Lundh, Wangby-Lundh & Bjarehed)


Populations

The SDQ can be completed by children and young people aged 11-17 years old. The parent and teacher versions can be completed by the parent or teacher of CYP aged 2-17 years old. Clinical experience indicates that the SDQ may be appropriate to use with CYP with mild learning difficulties, but not with more severe learning difficulties (Law & Wolpert, 2014).

Translation

The SDQ is one of the most widely and internationally used measure of child mental health and has been translated into more than 80 languages including Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Portuguese. Translated versions are available here. Information on normative SDQ data from the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden and the United States can be found here.

Administration

The questionnaire takes between five and ten minutes to complete. All versions of the questionnaire can be given to the appropriate respondent to complete themselves. The questionnaire can be completed on paper or online. To fill out the SDQ online, visit the Youth in Mind website as the SDQ scoring website is only intended for entering data from paper copies.

Alternatively, in order to ensure that each item is understood by the respondent, or to gain additional information about each response, the questionnaires can be administered directly by the clinician who can ask follow-up questions.

Scoring

  • Computerised: Paper versions of the SDQ can be scored on the SDQ website.

    If CYP, parents or teachers fill out the SDQ online, the Youth in Mind website produces a technical and readable report with a description of the scores.
  • By hand: Instructions for scoring SDQ’s by hand can be found on the SDQ scoring website.

Interpretation

  • Computerised: After entering paper versions of the SDQ on the SDQ website, a report designed for professionals will then be generated.
    If CYP, parents or teachers fill out the SDQ online, the Youth in Mind website produces instant feedback reports including a technical report designed for professionals as well as a readable report with a description of the scores, the level of concern, an overall impression as well as suggestions about what to do if the child or young person, their parent/teacher still has concerns.
  • By hand
    Instructions for scoring the SDQ by hand can be found on the SDQ scoring website and instructions for interpreting the SDQ when scored by hand can be found here. Instructions in other languages are also available here.

Terms of use

If you are planning to use this measure for the delivery and improvement of health and/or social care, a license to incorporate it into electronic systems can be obtained from NHS Digital. Please note that licenses obtained via this route may be restricted to particular territory (e.g. England, UK). If planning to use the measure outside of England, you may wish to contact NHS Digital to clarify the geographical scope of the licence.

Further information

More information on the SDQ can be found online, together with downloadable questionnaires and scoring instructions.

References

Goodman. R. (2001). Psychometric properties of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40 (11), 1337-1345.

Law, D., & Wolpert, M. (2014). Guide to using outcomes and feedback tools with children, young people and families. UK: Press CAMHS.

Lundh, L.G., Wangby-Lundh, M., & Bjarehed, J. (2008). 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. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49, 523–532.

Mieloo, C., Raat, H., van Oort, F., Bevaart, F., Vogel, I., Donker, M., & Jansen, W. (2012). Validity and reliability of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire in 5-6 year olds: Differences by gender or parental education. PLoS One, 7 (5), 1-8.

Muris, P., Meesters, C., & van den Berg, F. (2003). The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ): Further evidence for its reliability and validity in a community sample of Dutch children and adolescents. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 12 (1), 1–8.

Yao, S., Zhang, C., Zhu, X., Jing, X., McWhinnie, C. M., & Abela, J. R. Z. (2009). Measuring Adolescent Psychopathology: Psychometric Properties of the Self-Report Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire in a sample of Chinese adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 45, 55–62.

 Please note that the information on this page was last updated in April 2017.