Does parent-child agreement vary based on presenting problems? Results from a UK clinical sample.


Background: Discrepancies are often found between child and parent reports of child psychopathology, nevertheless the role of the child’s presenting difficulties in relation to these is under explored. This study investigates whether parent-child agreement on the conduct and emotional scales of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) varied as a result of certain child characteristics, including the child’s presenting problems to clinical services, age and gender. Methods: The UK-based sample consisted of 16,754 clinical records of children aged 11-17, the majority of which were female (57%) and White (76%). The dataset was provided by the Child Outcomes Research Consortium , which collects outcome measures from child services across the UK. Clinicians reported the child’s presenting difficulties, and parents and children completed the SDQ. Results: Using correlation analysis, the main findings indicated that agreement varied as a result of the child’s difficulties for reports of conduct problems, and this seemed to be related to the presence or absence of externalising difficulties in the child’s presentation. This was not the case for reports of emotional difficulties. In addition, agreement was higher when reporting problems not consistent with the child’s presentation; for instance, agreement on conduct problems was greater for children presenting with internalising problems. Lastly, the children’s age and gender did not seem to have an impact on agreement. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that certain child presenting difficulties, and in particular conduct problems, may be related to informant agreement and need to be considered in clinical practice and research.