One hundred and two of 210 children referred to UCLA-Neuropsychiatric Institute Child Division who completed the Short Children's Depression Inventory (SCDI) were, in addition to their parents, systematically interviewed by one of us (GAC) who was blind to CDI results. Children were diagnosed according to the Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC) and DSM III diagnostic categories. From their SCDI scores 50% of children were considered moderately depressed; almost 25% were rated at least moderately depressed at interview; and 28 had an affective disorder diagnosis. The SCDI score of these affective disorder children (14.1 ± 7.7) was almost twice that of nonaffective disorder children (8.0 ± 6.3). The greater number of children who appeared depressed on the basis of SCDI scores compared to those with diagnosed affective disorder is accounted for by children who are miserable secondary to other psychosocial difficulties but who do not meet rigid criteria for affective disorder.