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Effects of diagnostic classification systems on clinical hypothesis-generation

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In this study it was determined whether (a) classification as opposed to absence of classification has an effect on the quality of clinical hypotheses (b) the DSM-III-R and the CBCL have a different effect on the quality of clinical hypotheses, and (c) the potential difference between the DSM-III-R and the CBCL is moderated by the different number of syndromes identified by these systems. To investigate these questions, an experiment was conducted in which 86 clinicians generated hypotheses for six cases. The clinicians were divided into a DSM-III-R, a CBCL, and a control group. Of the six cases, two were classified by both classification systems as one syndrome, two were classified as one syndrome by the DSM-III-R but as two syndromes by the CBCL, and two were classified as two syndromes by the DSM-III-R but as one syndrome by the CBCL. The quality of the hypotheses was determined by means of four dependent variables selected from an overview of qualitative criteria: explanatory value, redundancy, possibility of operationalization, and specificity. No differences between the CBCL and the control groups were found. The DSM group performed better than the control group regarding explanatory value and redundancy. The DSM-III-R group also scored better than the CBCL group regarding explanatory value, particularly when the number of identified syndromes was two for the CBCL and one for the DSM-III-R.

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Correspondence to Marjolijn M. Vermande.

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Vermande, M.M., van den Bercken, J.H. & De Bruyn, E.E. Effects of diagnostic classification systems on clinical hypothesis-generation. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 18, 49–70 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02229102

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Key words

  • Child Behavior Checklist
  • psychopathological classification systems
  • hypothesis generation
  • qualitative characteristics of clinical hypotheses