Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)

Assessment Rating:
A – Psychometrics Well-Demonstrated
See entire scale

Robert Goodman, PhD

Description / Purpose:

The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a mental health screening tool for use with children and adolescents.

The SDQ is a brief behavioural screening questionnaire about 2-17 year olds. It exists in several versions to meet the needs of researchers, clinicians and educationalists. Each version includes between one and three of the following components:  

A) 25 items on psychological attributes

All versions of the SDQ ask about 25 attributes, some positive and others negative. These 25 items are divided between 5 scales: emotional symptoms (5 items), conduct problems (5 items), hyperactivity/inattention (5 items), peer relationship problems (5 items), prosocial behaviour (5 items). 

B) An impact supplement 

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, inquire further about chronicity, distress, social impairment, and burden to others.  

C) Follow-up questions 

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.

Target Population: Children between the ages of 2 to 17

Time to Administer: One sided version with 25 items, administration time approximately 5 minutes

Completed By: Parents and teachers. There is also a self-report version for 11-17 year olds

Modalities Available: Although the SDQ is free to download and can be manually scored, use of the online scoring version is recommended for a fee of $0.25 per use due to the level of errors that occur when scoring it manually. For more information, see Users are not permitted to create or distribute electronic versions for any purpose without prior authorization from YouthinMind. If you are interested in making translations or creating electronic versions, you MUST first contact YouthinMind via email at

Scoring Information: The fast SDQ scoring site for online scoring and report generation; hand scoring

Languages Available: Afrikaans, Amharic (Ethiopia), Arabic, Bulgaria, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Gujarati (India), Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Kannada (India), Khmer, Korean, Kurdish, Lithuanian, Malay, Malayalam (India), Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi (India), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Ukranian, Urdu (India & Pakistan), Xhosa — the rating for the measure is based solely on the English version of the measure.

Training Requirements for Intended Users: There is no minimum lisencing to use the tool. Making use of the website and the website, we have found that people from many different professions and levels of training have been able to collect, use and interpret the SDQ. Individual organizations may, however, choose to restrict the use or interpretation of the SDQ to particular professions or levels of experience.

Availability: Although the SDQ is free to download and can be manually scored, use of the online scoring version is recommended for a fee of $0.25 per use due to the level of errors that occur when scoring it manually. For more information, see Users are not permitted to create or distribute electronic versions for any purpose without prior authorization from YouthinMind. If you are interested in making translations or creating electronic versions, you MUST first contact YouthinMind via email at

Contact Information

Company: Youthinmind
Company: Youthinmind - SDQ Info

Summary of Relevant Psychometric Research

This tool has received the Measurement Tools Rating of "A – Psychometrics Well-Demonstrated" based on the published, peer-reviewed research available. The tool must have 2 or more published, peer-reviewed studies that have established the measure’s psychometrics (e.g., reliability and validity, sensitivity and specificity, etc.). Please see the Measurement Tools Rating Scale for more information.

Show relevant research...

Goodman, R., & Scott, S. (1999). Comparing the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and the Child Behavior Checklist: Is small beautiful? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 27(1), 17-24.


Participants — Mothers of 132 children aged 4 to 7 attending a children's dental clinic (low-risk) or child psychiatric clinic (high-risk).

Race/Ethnicity — Not Specified


This study compared scores on the SDQ and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), another other widely used measure of child behavior problems, to assess convergent validity. Two groups of children were identified. The low-risk group was recruited from a dental clinic and the high-risk group was recruited from a group of children referred to a psychiatric clinic for externalizing behavior problems. Mothers filled out both the SDQ and the CBCL. Mothers in the psychiatric sample were also administered an interview: the Parental Account of Child Symptoms. Both questionnaires were able to distinguish high from low-risk children well. Correlations between comparable subscales on the two questionnaires were also high. Mothers indicated that they preferred the SDQ. This study is limited by a small sample size.

Goodman, R. (2001). Psychometric properties of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Journal of the American Academic of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(11), 1337-1345.


Participants — 9,998 parents, 7,313 teachers, 3,983 11-15-year-olds

Race/Ethnicity — Not Specified


A national sample of parents, teachers, and youth in the United Kingdom completed a survey and interviews on mental health. This study examines completed SDQs which were included as part of the survey packets. A sub-sample also repeated the questionnaire 4 to 6 months after the first administration. The interview portion of the study included the Development and Well-Being Assessment, which allowed children to receive a DSM-IV diagnosis. Reliability analyses showed that the internal correlations of items within SDQ subscales were satisfactory. Inter-rater correlations for inter-rater agreement were statistically significant, though not high. The authors note that inter-rater agreement for the SDQ was higher than is typically reported for similar measures. Test-retest reliabilities were moderate, with youth self-ratings lowest and teacher ratings highest. The SDQ also successfully differentiated between those who were identified as having a psychiatric disorder with those who were not.

Mellor, D. (2004). Furthering the use of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire: Reliability with younger child respondents. Psychological Assessment, 16(4), 396-401.


Participants — 917 7-17 year old children recruited from schools in Australia, and their parents and teachers

Race/Ethnicity — Not Specified


SDQs were completed by children, parents and teachers. In addition, for a sub-sample of older children, a second SDQ was completed two weeks later. Internal reliabilities were moderate for all versions of the measure, with the highest reliabilities for the parent and teachers versions and the lowest for the Peer Problems subscale of the children's version. The inter-correlations between parent, teacher, and child SDQs for each set were statistically significant, as were test-retest correlations. The authors note that there was more congruence between parent and child reports for older children than for younger children. Older and younger children had comparable agreement with teacher reports. Older and younger children also showed comparable test-retest reliabilities, with the exception of younger children's peer relation reports, which were more inconsistent.

Sharp, C., Croudace, T. J., Goodyer, I. M., & Amtmann, D. (2005). The Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire: Predictive validity of parent and teacher ratings for help-seeking behaviour over one year. Educational & Child Psychology, 22(3), 28-44.


Participants — Parents and teachers of 659 7-11-year-old children recruited from schools in the United Kingdom

Race/Ethnicity — Approximately 97% White, 2% Asian, 0.5% Black, 0.5% Oriental.


This study examined the ability of SDQ scores to predict the likelihood of seeking help for behavior problems at one year. Three levels of help-seeking were defined: informal (discussion with friends or family), front-line (discussion with a general practitioner or teacher), and specialist (contact with Child and Mental Health Services (CAMHS)). Parents, teachers, and children completed the SDQ at baseline, six months and 12 months. In addition, information was collected on mental health service use, level of parental concern, socio-economic status, and child's IQ, based on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. Results showed that parents SDQ scores tended to become more positive over time and that they were not related to help-seeking behavior. In contrast, teacher scores became more negative and the more difficulties reported by teachers on the SDQ, the more likely it was that parents would seek help for their children. The SDQ was also related to parents self-reports of their level of concern over their children's behavior. Limitations include a low survey response rate.

Hill, C., & Hughes, J. N. (2007). An examination of the convergent and discriminant validity of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. School Psychology Quarterly, 22(3), 380-406.


Participants — 374 parents, teachers and peers (complete data), recruited from schools in Texas. Children were 6 years old on average.

Race/Ethnicity — 34% White, 23% African American, 37% Hispanic, and 6% Other.


Parents and teachers completed the SDQ. Children were asked to name peers who fit descriptions similar to SDQ items and to rate their liking for peers. Internal reliability was found to be acceptable for all SDQ subscales, with Peer Relationship Problems having the lowest internal consistency. Statistical analysis indicated that the subscales of the SDQ provide valid measures of each construct, but that there is overlap, possibly due the fact that problems can co-occur. Interpretation of peer data was limited by the use of an alternate measure of collection. The authors conclude that the SDQ appears to be a valid overall screening measure, but that it does not reliably distinguish among different types of problems and should not be used for diagnosis.

Palmierei, P. A., & Smith, G. C. (2007). Examining the structural validity of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) in a U.S. sample of custodial grandmothers. Psychological Assessment, 19(2), 189-198.


Participants — 733 custodial grandmothers providing care to children 4-16 years of age for at least 3 months in Ohio.

Race/Ethnicity — 50% Black, 50% White


Grandmothers completed the SDQ as part of a telephone interview. Results showed good internal reliability for the subscales of the SDQ, with Peer Problems having the weakest reliability. The authors make note of an ongoing controversy with the structure of the SDQ, particularly that positively worded items tend to be correlated, even if they are not part of the same subscales.

Ruchkin, V., Jones, S., Vermeiren, R., & Schwab-Stone, M. (2008). The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: The self-report version in American urban and suburban youth. Psychological Assessment, 20(2), 175-182.


Participants — 4,661 urban youth (13.0 years, on average. 937 suburban youth (14.0 years, on average)

Race/Ethnicity — Urban: 57.5% African American, 26.6% Hispanic, 12.8% Caucasian, 0.8% Asian American, and 2.3% Other; Suburban: 83.8% Caucasian, 6.4% Asian, 1.8% Hispanic, 3.1% African American, and 4.9% Other.


Students filled out copies of the SDQ as it was read to them by survey administrators. Analysis of the scale with this sample indicated a three factor structure: Emotional Distress/Withdrawal, Behavioral Reactivity/Conduct problems, and Prosocial Behavior/Peer competence. The authors note that the original 5 factors also represented a satisfactory structure for the measure. Low internal reliability was noted for some subscales, particularly for Peer Relationship and Conduct Problems.

Date Reviewed: February 2015 (Originally reviewed in June 2009)