Brief OCD Screener Effective for Use in Children of Various Ages

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Analysis revealed that the brief OCD screener predicted OCD with an accuracy rate of higher than 90%.
Analysis revealed that the brief OCD screener predicted OCD with an accuracy rate of higher than 90%.

Up to 3% of children and adolescents are estimated to have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and approximately 20% of individuals in the US with OCD experienced onset of symptoms by age 10 or younger.1 However, the statistics are believed to underestimate the actual numbers of youth who have the disorder. Research published in BJPsych Open examined the validity of the Short Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder Screener (SOCS), along with its utility in detecting OCD in children of a wider age range than previously studied.2

The timely identification of OCD symptoms is essential to ensure adequate treatment, and there are numerous assessment tools that can be used to evaluate such symptoms in children and adolescents. The Children's Yale-Brown Obsessive–Compulsive Scale (CY-BOCS) is an interview-based assessment commonly used in psychiatric practice, for example, and the Obsessive Compulsive Inventory–Child Version (OCI-CV) and the Children's Florida Obsessive–Compulsive Inventory (C-FOCI) are a couple of the available self-report measures. However, each of these tools poses certain limitations pertaining to issues such as length and accessibility.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that youth at risk of OCD be screened in a variety of settings–including general practice and community clinics–using the SOCS. This 7-item self-report tool requires one of 3 responses to each question: 0 for “no,” 1 for “a bit,” and 2 for “a lot.” The first 5 items assess symptoms such as checking, washing, and exactness, while the other 2 items pertain to impairment and resistance associate with symptoms. The total score for all items represents the SOCS score.

Though previous findings demonstrated that the SOCS had good internal consistency and sensitivity when used in children, some limitations remain, including uncertain convergent/divergent validity and test-retest reliability, as well as the narrow age range (11-15 years) in which the tool has shown promise.

The authors of the current study sought to further test the validity of the SOCS and explore its usefulness with children and adolescents of various ages and settings. The sample included 46 male and 48 female children and adolescents with a DSM-IV diagnosis of OCD and 880 non-OCD controls. The participants, who ranged in age from 9 to 19 years, were administered the SOCS, as well as the OCI-CV, C-FOCI, and CY-BOCS.

The results indicate that the SOCS has good reliability, moderate sensitivity and specificity (61% and 60%, respectively) and close associations with results of other OCD assessments. Further analysis revealed that the tool predicted OCD with an accuracy rate of 90.3%.

The SOCS is shorter and less cumbersome than many other tools designed to detect OCD in children and adolescents. The present findings support its usefulness as an effective screening tool in divergent settings and a range of ages.


1. Walitza S, Melfsen S, Jans T, Zellmann H, Wewetzer C, Warnke A. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2011; 108(11): 173–179.

2. Piqueras JA, Rodríguez-Jiménez T, Ortiz AG, Moreno E, Lázaro,L, Godoy A. Validation of the Short Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder Screener (SOCS) in children and adolescents. BJPsych Open. 2015; 1(1): 21–26.

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