Informant-based determinants of symptom attenuation in structured child psychiatric interviews

John Piacentini, Margaret Roper, Peter Jensen, Chris Lucas, Prudence Fisher, Hector Bird, Karen Bourdon, Mary Schwab-Stone, Maritza Rubio-Stipec, Mark Davies, Mina Dulcan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Informant-related determinants of item attenuation, that is, the drop- off in symptom endorsement rates at retest, were examined in an enriched community subsample of 245 parent-child pairs drawn from the National Institute of Mental Health Methods for Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders Study. Youngsters and their parents were interviewed with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (Version 2.3; DISC-2.3) on two occasions with a mean test-retest interval of 12 days. Item attenuation rates were high for both informants, with adults failing to confirm 42% and children 58% of baseline responses at retest. Stepwise regressions revealed that item attenuation at DISC-P retest was higher for adult informants who were younger, and who reported on older and less impaired children. On the DISC-C, attenuation was higher for children who were less impaired, rated as doing worse in school, and who had a longer test-retest interval. These results are broadly consistent with past studies examining the determinants of attenuation and test-retest reliability and have implications for the design and use of structured diagnostic instruments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-428
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999


  • Attenuation
  • Child
  • DISC
  • Diagnosis
  • Informant
  • Reliability
  • Structured interviews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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