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Female child mental health indicator (MHI) scale score

Codes and Frequencies

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FKIDMHI reports Mental Health Indicator (MHI) scores for female sample children age 4 to 11 based on parents' responses to a set of four questions about behavioral/emotional problems. The questions used to calculate MHI scores were taken from the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) developed by Dr. Thomas Achenbach and were selected separately according to specific gender and age groups (males and females; ages 2-3, 4-11, 12-17).

Related MHI Variables

FKIDMHI, which covers female children age 4-11, is one of six summary recodes for CBCL questions.


The other variables in this series are the following:

  • MTODMHI (male children 2-3) (available 1997 forward)
  • FTODMHI (female children 2-3) (available 1997 forward)
  • MKIDMHI (male children 4-11) (available 1997-2000)
  • MTEENMHI (male children 12-17) (available 1997-2000)
  • FTEENMHI (female children 12-17) (available 1997-2000)

Data Collection for MHI Variables 

Before asking the appropriate set of questions for female sample children age 4-11, the interviewer stated, "I am going to read a list of items that describe children. For each one, tell me if it has been NOT TRUE, SOMETIMES TRUE, or OFTEN TRUE, of [sample child] during the past 6 months."

The Field Representative's Manuals for 1997-2000 instructed interviewers, "[i]f the respondent gives an answer which does not match the categories read in the question, reread the question emphasizing the wording of the answer categories."

The statements parents were asked to rate for female sample children age 4 to 11 included:

(During the past 6 months)
  • Can't concentrate or pay attention long?
  • Has been nervous, high strung or tense?
  • Acts too young for her age?
  • Has been unhappy, sad, or depressed?

Responses for these four items were coded by NHIS as 0 (Not True), 1 (Sometimes True), and 2 (Often True). Individual item scores were then summed to calculate an overall MHI score ranging from 0 (lowest need for mental health services) to 8 (highest need for mental health services), which is reported in FKIDMHI.

The set of statements that parents were asked to rate as the basis for MHI scores differed across child age groups, as well as differing between males and females in the same age group. For information on the items parents rated for other gender/age groups and for further details on the interpretation of MHI scores, see FTODMHI.


Apart from the change in universe, FKIDMHI is completely comparable over time.

Other Indicators of Child Mental Health 

Beginning in 2001, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) developed by Dr. Robert Goodman replaced the CBCL questions for children age 4-17. The extended SDQ fielded in 2001 and 2003-2004 included 25 questions divided among five subscales that measured emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactive behavior, peer relationships, and prosocial behavior. In addition to the subscale items, eight questions were included as part of an impact supplement used to measure the duration and impact of the child's symptoms.

A shorter, 6-item version of the SDQ was fielded in 2002 and 2005 forward. The short SDQ included two items from the emotional symptoms subscale (WORRIED, UNHAPPY), one item from the conduct problems subscale (WELLBEHAVED), one item from the hyperactive behavior subscale (GOODATTEN), one item from the peer relationships subscale (GETALONGAD), and one item from the impact supplement (EMODIFF).

The public use files of the NHIS data include only the individual item scores for the SDQ subscale items. Analysts wishing to calculate the likelihood of a psychological problem for sample children age 4-17 using the SDQ variables may do so by summing responses for the appropriate subscale items. For more information on the SDQ, see any of the Child Strengths and Difficulties variables (e.g., BADTEMPER).


  • 1997: Sample children age 4 to 11 in quarters 3 and 4.
  • 1998-2000: Sample children age 4 to 11.


  • 1997-2000