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What is the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI)?


Updated August 27, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

If your child has been diagnosed with depression, or will be evaluated for depression, you may have heard of the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI). The CDI is a tool that mental health professionals use to measure the severity of depressive symptoms in children. It also discriminates between major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder in children.

The CDI is for children and adolescents between the ages of 7 and 17. It is a self-report assessment, which means that your child will be given the paper and pencil assessment to complete by herself. It is written at a first grade reading level. Some research indicates that the test is not appropriate for children who have reading difficulties.

The CDI has two forms: The original 27-item version, and the 10-item short-form version, which takes between 5 and 15 minutes for the child to complete. Each item has three statements, and the child is asked to select the one answer that best describes her feelings over the past two weeks.

There are five subscales within the assessment that measure different components of depression:

  • Anhedonia (inability or decreased ability to experience joy)
  • Negative self-esteem (belief that you are not good at anything)
  • Ineffectiveness (lack of motivation or inability to complete tasks)
  • Interpersonal problems (difficulty making and keeping close relationships)
  • Negative mood (irritability or anger)

The CDI has excellent psychometric properties, which means that it measures depression in children accurately and reliably when used properly. The CDI was tested on a large group that represents the population of children in the United States.

Only a professional trained on the properties of the CDI can accurately interpret the results. A raw score on the test is essentially meaningless without a professional's interpretation. Parents should discuss the meaning of the results with the professional who evaluated the child.

The CDI is a quick and painless depression assessment for your child. While any type of test is sure to make a child nervous, you can assure her that there are no right or wrong answers.

If you are concerned about depression in your child, it is important to consult with your child's pediatrician or other mental health professional. It is important that child depression is treated quickly.


Carmen L. Rivera, Guillermo Bernal, Jeannette Rossello. "The Children's Depression Inventory (CDI) and The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI): Their Validity As Screening measures For Major Depression in a Group of Puerto Rican Adolescents." International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology , September 5 2005 5(3): 485-498.

Kovacs, M. Children's Depression Inventory (CDI) New York: Multi-health Systems, Inc.; 1992.

Robert J. Gregory. Psychological Testing: History, Principles, and Applications. Fourth Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Group, Inc.; 2004.

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