A validation and norming study of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire in the New Zealand context

Final reports – Executive summary

Published online: 
06 August 2015
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The B4 School Check (B4SC) is a free health and development check provided for all children as soon as possible after they turn four years old. The B4SC includes a range of assessments and tools, including vision and hearing testing and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).

The SDQ is a short questionnaire for assessing children’s behaviour and emotional development that is completed by the parent, and by an Early Childhood Education (ECE) teacher. Scores are used to better understand children’s strengths and difficulties with the specific aim of identifying potential issues early on and highlighting if children should be referred for further assessment and services. The SDQ is not a diagnostic tool.

The Ministry of Health (the Ministry) commissioned Auckland University of Technology (AUT) to undertake a study to measure the reliability and validity of the SDQ for the New Zealand preschool population (four year olds), and to produce norming data for this population. This follows trends overseas where studies have been conducted to determine the SDQ’s validity and norms within specific populations and contexts. 

AUT submitted its six-part report ‘A validation and norming study of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire in the New Zealand Context’ (the AUT report) to the Ministry in January 2014. The AUT report consists of an executive summary and five substantive reports (study overview, face and cultural validity, structural validity, normative data, and predictive validity).

The AUT report found that the SDQ, as delivered in the B4SC context, has limits in its predicative validity and is not supported by some stakeholders.  It summarised a range of issues that providers faced in implementing the SDQ and that parents had with the purpose and perceived implications of the SDQ and the difficulties understanding the question and response options.

Given the technical nature of the research, the Ministry also commissioned an independent peer-review of the AUT report to ensure that the statistical methods were accurate and appropriate. In light of the peer review, the Ministry is satisfied that the SDQ is a useful tool for use in New Zealand and will continue with it as a core part of the B4SC programme. We are, however, implementing the recommendations of the AUT report to improve its applicability to the New Zealand context.

The substantive reports are technical in nature and are available on request by emailing b4sc@moh.govt.nz

Publishing information

  • Date of publication:
    06 August 2015
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    Only soft copy available to download
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    Third-party content. Please check the document or email the Web Manager to find out how to obtain permission to re-use content.

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