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Psychiatry Res. 2014 Jan 30;215(1):170-5. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2013.10.035. Epub 2013 Nov 5.

Correction of distortion in distressed mothers' ratings of their preschool-aged children's Internalizing and Externalizing scale score.

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  • 1Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Hospital Münster, Schmeddingstrasse 50, 48149 Münster, Germany. Electronic address:
  • 2Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Hospital Münster, Schmeddingstrasse 50, 48149 Münster, Germany.


Increased maternal psychopathology may bias mothers' ratings about child psychopathology. In this study we examined whether internalizing and externalizing behavior problems in young children were biased through maternal psychopathology. The clinical sample comprised 247 preschool-age patients who attended the Family Day Hospital in Münster, Germany. Internalizing and externalizing behavior problems were assessed by the CBCL/1.5-5, and maternal psychopathology was assessed by the SCL-90-R Global Severity Index (GSI). Three theoretical perspectives were tested by comparing the model fit of three structural equation models, namely the accuracy, distortion, and combinatory model. All of the models aimed to integrate multi-informant ratings from mother, therapists, and kindergarten teachers, but differed in the question which paths had to be significant. The distortion model fit the data best and supported the notion that there was a psychopathology-related bias in mothers' ratings. On the basis of this finding, we developed correction formulas comparable to Müller and Furniss (2013), in order to statistically control for this distortion. We discussed post-hoc explanations about why mothers with increased psychopathology gave higher ratings on the CBCL/1.5-5, including a better recall of internalizing symptoms, less flexible and effective parenting, and more perceived distress by child externalizing behavior.

© 2013 Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.


Adjustment; CBCL/1.5–5; Child psychopathology; Parental psychopathology; SCL-90-R; Structural equation modeling

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