Tracking emotional and behavioural changes in childhood: does the strength and difficulties questionnaire measure the same constructs across time?

Edward M. Sosu, Peter Schmidt

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Goodman’s (1997) Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is widely used to measure emotional and behavioural difficulties in childhood and adolescence. In the present study, we examined whether the SDQ measures the same construct across time, when used for longitudinal research. A nationally representative sample of parents (N=3375) provided data on their children at ages 4, 5, and 6. Using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) for ordinal data, two competing models (3 versus 5-factor models) were tested to establish equivalence across time. Results showed that the 5-factor model had a superior fit to the data compared to the alternative 3-factor model which only achieved an adequate fit at a configural level. Strong longitudinal factorial invariance was established for the 5-factor parent version of the SDQ. Our findings support the use of the SDQ in longitudinal studies, and provide the important psychometric information required for basing educational, clinical and policy decisions on outcomes of the SDQ.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-656
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Psychoeducational Assessment
Issue number7
Early online date18 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • strength and difficulties questionnaire
  • externalizing/internalizing disorders
  • confirmatory factor analysis
  • longitudinal
  • measurement invariance
  • response shift theory
  • validity
  • reliability
  • scale development/testing
  • psychopathologies
  • symptomologies
  • preschool

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