Volume 50, Issue 5 p. 571-580

How far are associations between child, family and community factors and child psychopathology informant-specific and informant-general?

Stephan Collishaw

Stephan Collishaw

King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, MRC Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, UK

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Robert Goodman

Robert Goodman

King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UK

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Tamsin Ford

Tamsin Ford

Institute of Health Services Research, Peninsula Medical School, UK

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Sophia Rabe-Hesketh

Sophia Rabe-Hesketh

Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley, USA

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Andrew Pickles

Andrew Pickles

School of Epidemiological and Health Science, and Centre for Census and Survey Research, University of Manchester, UK

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First published: 21 April 2009
Citations: 112
Stephan Collishaw, MRC Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Box Number PO46, Institute of Psychiatry, 16 De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK; Tel: 020 7848 0487; Email: [email protected]

Conflict of interest statement: Robert Goodman is the copyright holder of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). The SDQ itself can be downloaded without charge from the http://www.sdqinfo.com website maintained by his family.

Abstract

Background: Assessments of child psychopathology commonly rely on multiple informants, e.g., parents, teachers and children. Informants often disagree about the presence or absence of symptoms, reflecting reporter bias, situation-specific behaviour, or random variation in measurement. However, few studies have systematically tested how far correlates of child psychopathology differ between informants.

Methods: Parents, teachers and children in the 1999 British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Survey (n = 4,525, ages 11–15 years) completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Multiple source regression models tested the extent to which child, family, school and neighbourhood characteristics were differentially associated with the three informants’ reports. The 2004 British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Survey (n = 3,438, ages 11–15 years) was used for replication.

Results: Almost all significant correlates of child mental health were differentially related to parent, teacher and child ratings of adjustment. Parental distress, parent-rated family functioning, and child physical health problems were most strongly associated with parent ratings. Child ability and attainment, socio-economic factors, and school and neighbourhood disadvantage were more strongly associated with teacher and parent rated mental health than with children’s own ratings. Gender differences in externalising problems were most pronounced for teacher ratings, and least so for child ratings; the opposite held true for emotional problems. Effect sizes for combined latent scores fell near the upper end of the range of effect sizes estimated for the three individual informants. Results showed good replication across the two samples.

Conclusions: The study highlights that there is substantial variation across informants in the links between associated factors and child psychopathology.