It is estimated that 3% to 6% of school-age children have emotional or behavioral problems that are sufficiently serious and persistent to warrant intervention. Students with emotional and behavioral problems are at greater risk of being suspended from school than their peers without emotional and behavioral problems. A recent meta-analysis showed the worldwide prevalence of mental disorders, with estimates of median rates of 8% for preschoolers, 12% for preadolescents, and 15% for adolescents. Thus, early detecting emotional and behavioral problems among school-age children is always critical in both school and home.
As a promising measure, The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is used to screen for intervention and in epidemiologic and prevention research with school-age youth. The 25 items on the SDQ can be answered by the Likert-scale responses: Not true (0), somewhat true (1), and certainly true (2). Total difficulties score can be calculated based on the four scales: emotional problems, conduct problems, hyperactivity, and peer problem. Scores range from 0 to 40 can be interpreted as follows: a score of 0-13 means normal difficulty; a score of 14-16 borderline difficulty; and 17-40 abnormal difficulty (Goodman, Lamping, & Ploubidis, 2010).
The primary goal is to assess the psychometric performance of the overall SDQ and each symptom’s scale using the Parent’s Version for elementary schoolers
The authors self-developed a survey consisting of sections: (a) parents’ and child’s sociodemographic information, (b) the SDQ, and (c) criterion variables; academic (GPA), difficulties in life, & behaviors (# of suspension). A total of 317 parents of elementary school students completed the self-administered survey. Item statistics and confirmatory factor analysis were conducted.
The data supported that the overall scale had a good reliability (α = .866) and four subscales reached acceptable reliabilities with Cronbach alphas from .711 (emotional problems) to .817 (Hyperactivity) except the Peer Problems (alpha = .604). For construct validity, the two-latent-factor model (Difficulties and Strength) with five measured variables demonstrated the acceptable close fit (e.g., RMSEA <.05, SRMR = .082, GFI=.91, NFI =.86). While boys are more likely to have hyperactivity (M=4.70 versus M=3.34), girls displayed significantly better prosocial behaviors (M=8.44 versus M=7.83). The total score are significantly associated with home life (r=.580), friendships (r=.570), and classroom learning (r=.462) and conduct problem and hyperactivity are significantly correlated with the GPA and suspension
Findings supported the strong psychometric property of the SDQ – Parent version. The total and subscale score can be used to screen emotional and behavioral problems which may lead to suspension and drop out school. As school social workers also move into prevention and public-health oriented roles, they experience the need for brief, reliable, and valid measures of behavioral and emotional adjustment that can be used in epidemiological and prevention research.