, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 579-595

Validity of the NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children: A comparison between psychiatric and pediatric referrals

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Abstract

The NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC) was used to evaluate 40 psychiatric referrals aged 7–11 and 40 pediatric referrals matched for age, sex, race, and socioeconomic status. Each parent and child was interviewed separately using parallel versions of the interview, DISC-P and DISC-C, and parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). The psychiatric referrals had more psychiatric diagnoses and higher symptom scores than the pediatric referrals. Parent reports discriminated better between the criterion groups than child reports. In both groups, mild oppositional behavior and fears were commonly reported by parents, whereas mild separation anxiety, fears, and dysthymia were commonly reported by children. Attention deficit disorder, conduct disorder, and affective disorders were much more common among psychiatrically referred children. There was an association (x2=37.1, p < 001) between abnormally high CBCL scores and diagnoses derived from the interview with the parent, but the association between the CBCL and the child interview was not significant. Over all, the results support the validity of the DISC-P, and to a lesser extent that of the DISC-C, in discriminating psychiatric from pediatric referrals, at the level of both symptoms and severe diagnoses, but not at the mild/moderate level of diagnosis.

This work was supported in part by NIMH Clinical Research Center Grant No. MH30915 and by NIMH Contract No. RFP-DB-81-0027. The second author is supported by an NIMH Research Scientist Development Award No. MH00403 and by a Faculty Scholar's Award from the William T. Grant Foundation. The authors are most grateful to Noelle Conover for her assistance in data analysis.