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Strengths and Difficulties questionnaire: Peer problem subscale score

Codes and Frequencies

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For sample children ages 4-17, SDQPEER reports the peer problems subscale score of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) based on responses to five variables:

  • 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)

For more information about the SDQ, please see WORRIED.

Calculating a Peer Problems Subscale Score for the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire 

The SDQ Scoring Guide provides guidance on scoring responses to SOLITARY, HASFRIEND, KIDSLIKE, PICKEDON, and GETALONGAD to generate a peer problems subscale score ranging from 0 to 10. Under these guidelines, for the variables SOLITARY, PICKEDON, and GETALONGAD, the response "not true" is given a score of 0; a response of "somewhat true" is given a score of 1; and a response of "certainly true" is given a score of 2. The opposite is true for HASFRIEND and KIDSLIKE: the response "not true" is given a score of 2; a response of "somewhat true" is given a score of 1; and a response of "certainly true" is given a score of 0. Summing the five individual scores yields a total emotional problems subscale score between 0 and 10.

According to the SDQ Scoring Guide, the peer problems subscale score can be used as a continuous variable, but it is sometimes convenient to classify it into broader categories for easier interpretation of results. Under the original three-band categorization, total peer problems subscale scores can be identified as normal, borderline, or abnormal: a total score of 0-5 is normal; a score of 6 is borderline; and a score of 7-10 is abnormal. Under the newer four-band categorization, total scores can be identified as close to average, slightly raised, high, or very high: a total score of 0-5 is close to average; a score of 6-7 is slightly raised; a score of 8 is high; and a score of 9-10 is very high.

In the NHIS, respondents were given a code of 98 ("Not ascertained-more than two responses missing") if more than two of the five component variables of the emotional subscale score had responses of "don't know," "refused," or "not ascertained."

NHIS began offering SDQPEER in 2019. IPUMS NHIS staff constructed SDQPEER for 2001, 2003, and 2004 using the conventions outlined above.

Other SDQ Scores 

The SDQ variables can be used to generate four other subscale scores and a total SDQ score:

  • SDQCOND: Conduct problems subscale score
  • SDQHYPE: Hyperactivity subscale score
  • SDQEMOT: Emotional problems subscale score
  • SDQPROS: Prosocial subscale score


With the exception of the questionnaire redesign introduced in 2019, this variable is completely comparable over time. 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; 2003; 2004: Sample children ages 4-17.
  • 2019 2022: Sample children ages 4-17.


  • 2001, 2003-2004, 2019, 2022