Assessing the value of and contextual and cultural acceptability of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire SDQ) in evaluating mental health problems in HIV/AIDS affected children
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The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a robust, powerful and internationally recognised diagnostic screening tool for emotional and behaviour problems among children, with the particular advantage that it can be used by non-health professionals. This makes it useful in a South African context characterized by shortages of professional mental health carers. However the cultural and contextual acceptability and potential uses of the SDQ have not yet been examined in the South African context. The aim of the current study was to evaluate the acceptability of the SDQ in a Sesotho speaking area of South Africa. As part of a larger study to standardise the SDQ for use among Sotho speakers, teachers were asked to use the tool to assess learners in their class. Ten teachers were then asked to write a report on their experience of the SDQ and how useful and applicable they found it for their school setting. These findings were discussed at two later meetings with larger groupings of teachers. Reports were analysed using a modified contextualised interpretative content analysis method. Teachers found the SDQ very useful in the classroom and easy to administer and understand. They found it contextually relevant and particularly useful in gaining an understanding of the learners and the challenges that learners were facing. It further allowed them to differentiate between scholastic and emotional problems, assisting them in developing relationships with the pupils and facilitating accurate referrals. There were very few concerns raised, with the major problem being that it was difficult to assess items concerning contexts outside of the school setting. The teachers expressed interest in obtaining further training in the interpretation of the SDQ and a greater understanding of diagnostic labels so as to assist their learners. The SDQ was found to be acceptable and useful in the context of this very disadvantaged community. The teachers felt it assisted them in their role as teachers by providing
a greater understanding of emotional and behaviour problems among learners. However, lack of
places for referral and their own lack of appropriate skills and time did generate frustration.