Child Psychosocial Distress Screener (CPDS)

An assessment tool that aids in preliminary detection and determination of the level of psychosocial distress, and any potential need for specialized services and/or treatment, in children. CPDS uses broad, non-specific questions relating to one of three factors—distress, resilience, and school—and can be administered by non-specialists. It contains seven items, the first four of which are answered by the child, and the final three by a teacher of the child. Possible response options include: Never/Not at all/Irregular, Sometimes/A little/Some absence, and Often/A lot/Regular. Pictorial representations of empty, half-full, and full-glasses are used to help children with providing correctly intended responses to each question. Each question response is worth 0-2 points (14 total possible points for the entire CPDS), with higher overall scores indicative of higher levels of psychosocial distress in the past month. For three of the items, ‘probes’, relating to the child’s own experiences and memories of past events, are used. Information for probes is gleaned through focus group discussions held with parents, teachers, and children prior to administration of questionnaires. In these focus group discussions, participants are queried about local and/or personal examples of aversive events (Question 1.1 on CPDS) and manifestation(s) of distress and other worrisome behaviors (Questions 1.3 and 2.1). Responses are listed and ranked, with the most frequently mentioned responses selected for use as probes. In addition to the pre-administration focus groups, it is strongly encouraged to conduct pre-administration briefings with parents, teachers, and children to discuss screening procedures, project objectives, and the consent process. Also, it is acceptable for the questionnaire to be administered orally to illiterate children.

Related Publications

Jordans, M. J., Komproe, I. H., Tol, W. A., & De Jong, J. T. (2009). Screening for psychosocial distress amongst war-affected children: cross-cultural construct validity of the CPDS. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50(4), 514-523.

Tol, W. A, Komproe, I. H., Jordans, M. D., Vallipuram, A., Sipsma, H., Sivayokan, S., & Macy, R. D. (2012). Outcomes and moderators of a preventive school-based mental health intervention for children affected by war in Sri Lanka: a cluster randomized trial. World Psychiatry, 11(2), 114–122.

What it measures

Pyschosocial and emotional wellbeing



Children aged 8 to 14 years


Jordans, M. J., Komproe, I. H., Ventevogel, P., Tol, W. A., & De Jong, J. T. (2012). The Child Psychosocial Distress Screener (CPDS). Measurement Instrument Database for the Social Science.