Evaluation of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire-Dysregulation Profile (SDQ-DP)

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Abstract

The Dysregulation Profile (DP) has emerged as a measure of concurrent affective, behavioral and cognitive dysregulation, associated with severe psychopathology, and poor adjustment. While originally developed with the Child Behavior Checklist, more recently the DP has also been defined on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), mostly with a 5-item, but also a 15-item, SDQ-DP measure. This study evaluated the SDQ-DP by examining its factor structure, measurement invariance, and construct validity. Different SDQ-DP operationalizations were compared. In a United States longitudinal community sample (N = 768), a bifactor model consisting of a general Dysregulation factor and three specific factors of Emotional Symptoms, Conduct Problems, and Hyperactivity-Inattention fitted best, across three different developmental periods (early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence) and across three different reporters (parents, teachers, and youth). Measurement invariance across reporter, gender, and developmental period was demonstrated. These findings indicate that the SDQ-DP, like the CBCL-DP, reflects a broad syndrome of dysregulation that exists in addition to specific syndromes of emotional symptoms, conduct problems, and hyperactivity-inattention. SDQ-DP bifactor scores were strongly related with scores on the 5- and 15-item SDQ-DP measures and similarly concurrently associated with two markers of self-regulation, ego-resiliency and effortful control, and longitudinally with antisocial behavior and disciplinary measures. As reliability, validity, and stability was weaker for the SDQ-DP 5-item measure, use of all 15 items is recommended. Advantages of using a bifactor approach are discussed as well as the potential of the SDQ-DP as an easy screening measure of children at risk for developing serious psychopathology.

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