The advantages and disadvantages of lay-administered structured interviews and self-administered problem checklists for estimating prevalence and associated features of childhood psychiatric disorder have attracted little comment. This article compares the scientific adequacy of these 2 instruments for classifying DSM-III-R categories of childhood psychiatric disorder in general population samples.
Study data are from parental assessments of 251 children aged 6 to 16 years participating in a 2-stage measurement evaluation study. Reliability and validity were compared between the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents (the structured interview used in the study) and the revised Ontario Child Health Study scales (the self-administered problem checklist used in the study).
Reliability estimates based on the k statistic were comparable for the 2 instruments and ranged from 0.21 (conduct disorder) to 0.70 (depression) on the lay interview and from 0.27 (depression) to 0.61 (oppositional defiant disorder) on the self-administered checklist. Validity coefficients tended to favor the checklist categories, but only marginally.
On balance, differences in reliability and validity were small between the 2 instruments. These differences would appear to have no discernible impact on the knowledge about prevalence and associated features of disorder generated by use of such instruments in general population surveys.