Examining parent and child agreement in the diagnosis of adolescent depression

Faith Orchard, Laura Pass, Laura Cocks, Chloe Chessell, Shirley Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The diagnosis of depression in adolescents relies on identifying the presence of specific core and additional symptoms. Symptoms can be identified using structured or unstructured interviews and a range of questionnaire measures, which are completed by the young person and by a parent or carer. The aim of this research was to examine the inter- and intra-rater reliability of parent report and adolescent self-report of depression symptoms.

Method: In a sample of parent–child dyads, where young people aged 13–17 were referred to a mental health service for depression, we examined adolescents’ (n = 46) and parents’ (n = 46) independent responses to the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia in School-Age Children (Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 1997, 980) and the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 27, 1988, 726).

Results: In the clinical interview, diagnostic criteria were more often met based on the adolescent's report, and adolescents endorsed more symptoms of depression than their parents. Tentative results also suggest that parent–child agreement about specific symptoms was low. Comparing different measures of depression revealed that adolescent report on the questionnaire and interview was significantly correlated. However, there was no significant correlation between parent questionnaire and interview report.

Conclusion: These results suggest that relying solely on parents to identify depression in their children may result in young people with depression being missed and therefore untreated. Young people themselves should be encouraged and enabled to recognise the symptoms of depression and have an established pathway to services that offer assessment and treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-344
Number of pages7
JournalChild and Adolescent Mental Health
Issue number4
Early online date28 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

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