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Strengths and Difficulties questionnaire: Total score

Codes and Frequencies

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For sample children ages 4-17, SDQTOT reports the total score of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) based on responses to four variables:

  • Emotional problems subscale score (SDQEMOT)
  • Conduct problems subscale score (SDQCOND)
  • Hyperactivity subscale score (SDQHYPE)
  • Peer problems subscale score (SDQPEER)

For more information about the SDQ, please see WORRIED.

Calculating a Total Score for the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire 

The SDQ Scoring Guide instructs users to sum responses to SDQEMOT, SDQCOND, SDQHYPE, and SDQPEER to generate a total score ranging from 0 to 40.

According to the SDQ Scoring Guide, the total 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, the total score can be identified as normal, borderline, or abnormal: a total score of 0-13 is normal; a score of 14-16 is borderline; and a score of 17-40 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 0-13 is close to average; a score of 14-16 is slightly raised; a score of 17-19 is high; and a score of 20-40 is very high.

In the NHIS, respondents were given a code of 98 ("Not ascertained-more than one response missing") if more than one of the four component variables of the total score had a response of "Not ascertained-more than two responses missing."

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


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