Based on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), this publication explores the prevalence of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties in New Zealand children aged 3–14 years. Data come from the New Zealand Health Survey child developmental health and wellbeing module, which was in the field in 2012/13, 2014/15 and 2015/16. The publication reports on differences in the prevalence and nature of the difficulties experienced by children across age, sex, ethnicity and neighbourhood deprivation.
The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire
The SDQ is a parent-completed questionnaire about their child’s behaviour, covering the areas of social, emotional and behavioural functioning. If a child experiences difficulties with the behaviours assessed, this may be indicative of an underlying developmental delay or disorder (eg, an autism spectrum disorder) or a greater risk of some types of mental disorders in childhood or later in life (eg, conduct disorder, depression).
Early intervention in response to difficulties can reduce the risk or severity of certain types of mental disorders later in childhood, adolescence or adulthood and improve children’s developmental, emotional, academic and social outcomes. It could help children to achieve their full potential.
This brief presents the prevalence of New Zealand children aged 3–14 years who are at high risk of experiencing social, emotional or behavioural difficulties based on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ, Goodman 1997).
The majority of New Zealand children aged 3–14 years are developing well, without major social, emotional and/or behavioural problems. However, based on the SDQ about 8 percent of children experience significant difficulties (an estimated 57,000 children). The prevalence and nature of difficulties differs across subgroups.