Data Cart

Your data extract

0 variables
0 samples
View Cart
Often offers help to others, past 6 months

Codes and Frequencies

Can't find the category you are looking for? Try the Detailed codes


For sample children age 4 to 17, HELPFUL reports parents' responses to a question about whether, during the past 6 months, the child often offered to help others (parents, teachers, other children).

The interviewer began this part of the survey by stating, "I am going to read a list of items that describe children. For each item, please tell me if it has been not true, somewhat true, [or] certainly true for [sample child] during the past 6 months," and handed the respondent a flashcard listing the three acceptable responses.

The Field Representative's Manual for 2001 and 2003-2004 provided directions on how interviewers should respond if parents indicated that the child was taking medication:

If the parent indicates that the child is taking medication, the parent should answer the questions as best possible describing their child's behavior when the child is NOT on the medication. However, do not ask if the child is on medication. Only if the parent states that the child takes medication and they do not know how to respond to the question, inform the parent to answer as best as they can, describing the child when the child is NOT on the medication.

As discussed in more detail in below, HELPFUL is intended to be a measure of the child's "prosocial behavior." HELPFUL was part of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Extended (SDQ-EX), which, according to the 2001 and 2003-2004 Manuals, was included "to monitor emotional and behavioral problems in children and the impact that these problems have on children's lives."

Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Extended

HELPFUL is part of a set of 33 questions from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Extended (SDQ-EX) developed by Dr. Robert Goodman, Institute of Psychiatry, London, England.


As the Appendix on SDQ in the 2001 and 2003-2004 Codebook of the NHIS public use files explains:

The parent respondent version of the SDQ was added as a mental health supplement for children ages 4-17 as part of a collaborative agreement between NCHS and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The first part of the SDQ consists of 25 scale items . . . These items can be divided into five subscales measuring the following psychological attributes or dimensions:
  • emotional symptoms;
  • conduct problems;
  • hyperactive behavior;
  • peer relationships;
  • prosocial behavior.

The survey forms for 2001 and 2003-2004 also acknowledged the debt to Dr. Goodman, as follows:

The SDQ questions are copyrighted by Robert Goodman, Ph.D., FRCPsych, MRCP. State and local agencies may use these questions without charge and without seeking separate permission provided the wording is not modified, all the questions are retained, and Dr. Goodman's copyright is acknowledged.

This information was included for legal reasons and was not shared with survey respondents. More information on the SDQ is available at

Scoring Responses to SDQ-EX: Prosocial Behavior

As noted in the Appendix on SDQ in the Codebooks for the NHIS public use files for 2001 and 2003-2004, HELPFUL is an element of the 5-item subscale dealing with positive, prosocial behavior.


The other elements of this subscale on prosocial behavior are:

  • Readily shares treats, toys, games, or CDs with other children, past 6 months (SHARES)
  • Considerate of other people's feelings, past 6 months (CONSIDERATE)
  • Helpful if someone is hurt, upset, or feeling ill, past 6 months (HELPSHURT)
  • Kind to younger children, past 6 months (KINDTOKIDS)

Valid responses for these questions were "not true," "somewhat true," and "certainly true." A response of "not true" for these variables (code 0 in IPUMS NHIS) implies the lowest level of prosocial behavior; a response of "certainly true" for these variables (code 2 in IPUMS NHIS) implies the highest level of prosocial behavior; and a response of "somewhat true" on these variables (code 1 in IPUMS NHIS) implies an intermediate level of prosocial behavior. Researchers may choose to use a single variable from this set, but they can also sum the scores across the 5 variables. Summing these elements yields a total score for prosocial behavior ranging from 0 (the lowest level) to 10 (the highest level).

Summing the values for these variables yields valid totals only if the analyst excludes not in universe cases (persons other than sample children age 4-17, code 6 in IPUMS NHIS) and cases with missing information (codes 7, 8, and 9 in IPUMS NHIS).

The SDQ Scoring Guide provides guidelines for interpreting subscale scores (with Not in Universe and unknown cases excluded) for the SDQ-EX. For "Parent Completed" results (as in the NHIS), the guide suggests a three-band or four-band approach for interpreting the summed score for "Prosocial Behavior." Under the original three-band categorization, the summed Prosocial Behavior score can be identified as normal, borderline, or abnormal: a score of 6-10 is normal; a score of 5 is borderline; and a score of 0-4 is abnormal. Under the newer four-band categorization, the summed Prosocial Behavior score can be identified as close to average, slightly lowered, low, or very low: a score of 8-10 is close to average; a score of 7 is slightly lowered; a score of 6 is low; and a score of 0-5 is very low.

Scoring Responses to SDQ-EX: Combining the 0ther 4 Subscales

For four of the five subscales of the SDQ-EX (emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity behavior, and peer relationships), items can be added for an overall score from 0 to 40. The items from the subscale on Prosocial Behavior are excluded from this "Total Difficulties Score."


As the Appendices on SDQ in the Codebooks for 2001 and 2003-2004 explain,

The fifth subscale, the Prosocial subscale, describes children's positive behaviors. These items are excluded from the overall SDQ scoring when using the SDQ to identify children with psychological problems.

Notably, in IPUMS NHIS, for the Prosocial Scale and its individual items, the highest values are most desirable, and the lowest values are the least desirable. In IPUMS NHIS, for the other SDQ-EX subscales and the "Total Difficulties Scale," the opposite is true.

The elements of the other 4 subscales (excluding the Prosocial Behavior scale) in the SDQ-EX are as follows:

For measuring "Emotional Symptoms"
  • Often unhappy, depressed, or tearful, past 6 months (UNHAPPY)
  • Complains of headaches/stomach-aches or sickness, past 6 months (STOMACHE)
  • Often seems worried, past 6 months (WORRIED)
  • Nervous or clingy in new situations, past 6 months (CLINGY)
  • Many fears or easily scared, past 6 months (FEARFUL)
For measuring "Conduct Problems"
  • Often loses temper, past 6 months (BADTEMPER)
  • Often fights or bullies kids, past 6 months (BULLIES)
  • Often lies or cheats, past 6 months (LIECHEAT)
  • Steals from home, school, or elsewhere, past 6 months (STEALS)
For measuring "Hyperactivity Behavior"
  • Restless or overactive, past 6 months (OVERACTIVE)
  • Constantly fidgeting, past 6 months (FIDGETY)
  • Good attention span and finishes tasks, past 6 months (GOODATTEN)
For measuring "Peer Relationships"
  • Prefers to be alone, past 6 months (SOLITARY)
  • Had at least 1 good friend, past 6 months (HASFRIEND)
  • Liked by other kids, past 6 months (KIDSLIKE)
  • Was picked on or bullied, past 6 months (PICKEDON)
  • Gets along better with adults than kids, past 6 months (GETALONGAD)


With the exception of the NHIS questionnaire redesign introduced in 2019, HELPFUL is completely comparable over time. This variable is an element of the extended version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ-EX), which was fielded for sample children in the NHIS in 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2019 forward. It is not an element of the abbreviated version of SDQ, which was fielded for sample children in 2002, 2005-2007, and 2010-2018.

The NHIS questionnaire was substantially redesigned in 2019 to introduce a different data collection structure and new content. For more information on changes in terminology, universes, and data collection methods beginning in 2019, please see the user note.


  • 2001: Sample children age 4 to 17.
  • 2003-2004: Sample children age 4 to 17.
  • 2019: Sample children age 4 to 17.


  • 2001, 2003-2004, 2019