Cross-cultural acceptability and utility of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire: views of families

Paula Kersten, M. Dudley, Shoba Nayar, Hinemoa Elder, Heather Robertson, Robyn Tauroa, Kathryn M. McPherson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background: Screening children for behavioural difficulties requires the use of a tool that is culturally valid. We explored the cross-cultural acceptability and utility of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire for pre-school children (aged 3-5) as perceived by families in New Zealand. Methods: A qualitative interpretive descriptive study (focus groups and interviews) in which 65 participants from five key ethnic groups (New Zealand European, Māori, Pacific, Asian and other immigrant parents) took part. Thematic analysis using an inductive approach, in which the themes identified are strongly linked to the data, was employed. Results: Many parents reported they were unclear about the purpose of the tool, affecting its perceived value. Participants reported not understanding the context in which they should consider the questions and had difficulty understanding some questions and response options. Māori parents generally did not support the questionnaire based approach, preferring face to face interaction. Parents from Māori, Pacific Island, Asian, and new immigrant groups reported the tool lacked explicit consideration of children in their cultural context. Parents discussed the importance of timing and multiple perspectives when interpreting scores from the tool. Conclusions: In summary, this study posed a number of challenges to the use of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire in New Zealand. Further work is required to develop a tool that is culturally appropriate with good content validity. Key words Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, SDQ, culture, validity, parents
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number347
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalBMC Psychiatry
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2016

    Bibliographical note

    © 2016 The Author(s). Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


    • Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire
    • SDQ
    • Culture
    • Validity
    • Parents


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