Increasing rates of adolescent admissions to inpatient psychiatric settings and acute length of stay necessitates valid psychiatric screening tools. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) appears to have valuable clinical application due to its brevity and strong psychometric properties. In this study we aimed to evaluate the criterion validity of the SDQ in 159 psychiatric inpatients between the ages of 12-17 against the Computerized Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (CDISC). In determining the criterion validity of the SDQ against the CDISC-IV, we further sought to compare its classification accuracy with the DSM-oriented scales of two widely-used clinical screeners for children and adolescents, the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and Youth Self Report (YSR). Results demonstrated comparable diagnostic accuracy for the three measures in detecting common emotional and behavioral disorders. Tentative clinical cutoffs were proposed specific to American adolescents for parent and youth reports. Sensitivity and specificity values are also reported and discussed.