Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)

Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)

An Overview of this Psychological Metric

The Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) is a psychological metric designed to evaluate the presence and severity of specific symptoms of depression in youth for targeted treatment plan development. As self-reporting measure, the CDI proves useful when providing comprehensive evaluation to parents, teachers, and child, adopted widely by schools, private practice, guidance counselors, and in hospital pediatric centers. Although widely used, controversy surrounds the CDI’s efficacy with regard to cultural differences most notably for not working properly in cultural settings outside the United States.

Developed using an open ended questionnaire metric, the questionnaire uses specific responses, which professionals measure when looking for depressive symptoms. The CDI consists of twenty-seven test factors used for determining symptoms, including depression in mood, hedonic capacity, listlessness, self–evaluation, and socialization skills (Kovacs, 2011). The test functions in a predictive capacity, seeking consequences of depression such as dysfunction in an educational environment. The test's measures are consistent in the United States with coefficient scores ranging from .71 to .89 with various samples. But in comparative cross cultural studies the CDI shows less efficiency.

In the “A Confirmatory Comparison of the Factor Structure of the Children’s Depression Inventory between European, American, and African American Youth” the CDI failed to be predictive and could not adequately diagnosis depression. The study revealed CDI's limitations in cross cultural settings and proved less likely to assist minority groups (Steele et al, 2006).

Similar results elucidated from “The Children’s Depression Inventory as a measure of depression in Swedish adolescents” when researchers discovered,

The CDI has some, but as of yet not sufficient indications of being a valid and reliable measure of depression in adolescence and scores can be used to indicate, though not prove the absence or presence of, depression (Ivarsson et al, 2006).

In both studies, the populations studied were from cultures outside the United States. Children sampled came from different age brackets across different socioeconomic lines, giving weight to the cultural issues surrounding CDI. As such the CDI's usefulness limits to the US due to underlying cultural bias which needs further research to make more objective and universally useful.


Kovacs M. (2011) Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) Retrieved from Mental Health Systems

Ivarsson T, Svalander P, Litlere O. (2006). Nord J Psychiatry. The Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) as measure of depression in Swedish adolescents. A normative study; 60(3):220–6

Steele, R. G., Little, T. D., Ilardi, S. S., Forehand, R., Brody, G. H., & Hunter, H. L. (2006). A Confirmatory Comparison of the Factor Structure of the Childrenʼs Depression Inventory between European American and African American Youth. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 15(6), 773–788. Retrieved from Phoenix Library.

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Article Updated: 11/24/2021

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