The Reliability of Interparental and Peer
Reports on Adolescent Delinquency
Martin Ho and Farah Williams
University of Virginia
We gratefully acknowledge support provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant # R01
MH58066) to Joseph Allen, Principal Investigator, for the conduct and write-up of this study.
Society for Research on Adolescence, April 2002
This study examines the reliability of interparental and peer ratings of
adolescent delinquency with adolescent self-reported delinquent behaviors,
assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist, Problem Behavior Inventory,
and Youth Self-Report of delinquency. Data were collected from a sample of
184 teens and their parents (177 mothers, 108 fathers), as well as three peer
groups (closest friend, close friend, acquaintance). Simple correlations were
conducted between adolescent self-reported delinquency and the multi-
reporters’ ratings. An analysis on gender of adolescent effects are also
highlighted. Results reveal significant differences in interparental rating
reliability on adolescent delinquency. The peer’s level of closeness with the
adolescent also affects their rating reliability. Gender effects were clearly
present, with differences in parent by gender of adolescent ratings. These
findings illustrate the differences in reliability among multiple reporters, both
between parents and types of friends.
A crucial issue in interpreting ratings of adolescent delinquent behavior by
parents and peers is the reliability of those ratings with adolescent self-
Previous studies have suggested agreement between parent and child
ratings of delinquency using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), Youth Self
Report (YSR), and Problem Behavior Inventory (PBI) (Rey, Schrader, &
Modest reliability between adolescent self-reported delinquency and peer
ratings have also been shown (Achenbach, McConaughy, & Howell, 1987).
The agreement between interparental ratings of adolescent delinquency is
Some studies have found interparental agreement to be low
(Christensen, Margolin, & Sullaway, 1992), with mothers reporting
more problem behavior than fathers (Jensen, Taylor, Xehakis, &
Davis, 1988; Thurber & Osborn, 1993).
Individual studies examining interparental agreement often report conflicting
patterns of results.
Some studies found that mothers report more adolescent problem
behaviors than fathers (Christensen et al., 1992; Jensen, Taylor,
Xenakis, & Davis, 1988; Thurber & Osborn, 1993).
Others studies have found a parent by gender of adolescent
interaction, with mothers reporting more problem behaviors for sons
and fathers reporting more problem behaviors for daughters
(Friedlander, Weiss, & Taylor; 1986 & Graham & Stevenson, 1985).
During adolescence, friendships themselves become increasingly important
in adolescent development, making this relationship particularly important
for examining the validity of peer reports.
Very little research has examined the reliability of peer reports of adolescent
delinquency with only modest correlations between peer ratings and
adolescent self-reports (Achenbach, McConaughy, & Howell, 1987).
This study used multi-reporter data to examine the reliability of parent and
peer reports as indicators of adolescent delinquent behavior as well as the
reliability of interparental ratings of adolescent delinquency.
Multi-reporter data were collected from a sample of 184 adolescents (87
males, 97 females), their parents (177 mothers, 108 fathers), and their peers
(182 Close Friends, 151 Good Friends, and 146 Acquaintances).
Adolescent Race/Ethnicity (self-identified; missing=3)
African American 52
Other Minority Group 24
Mean Age (SD)
Teen 13.36 (0.66)
Peers 13.40 (0.82)
Median $40,00-$59,000 (range=$5,000 to > $60,000)1
1Assessed in categories: A. Under $5,000; B. $5,000-$9,999; C. $10,000-$14,999; D. $15,000-$19,999; E. $20,000-$29,999; F. $30,000-$39,999; G. $40,000-
$59,999; H. $60,000 or more.
Child Behavior Checklist. The original CBCL (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1981)
contains 113 items which load on 9 main scales. Parents and peers
answered questions regarding the target adolescents’ behavior on the
externalizing scales: aggression, hostility, delinquency, hyperactivity, and
immaturity. For this study, the short forms taken from Lizotte, Chard-
Wierschem, Loeber, & Stern (1992) were used.
Problem Behavior Inventory. Originally developed as an open-ended
interview, a modified rating form was administered to adolescents and their
peers (Elliot & Ageton, 1980). The modified version uses the following scale
for each item (in the past 6 months): “How often have you…” Never, Once or
Twice, 3 or 4 Times, Once a Month, 2-3 Times a Month, Once a Week, 2-3
Times a Week, Once a Day.
Youth Self-Report. The YSR is designed to obtain adolescent reports of their
own competencies and problems in a standardized format. The original form
(Achenbach, 1991) contained 112 items divided into 9 major scales. For this
study, the short form for both the externalizing scale (aggressive behavior,
delinquent behavior, hostile/withdrawn, and hyperactive) and immaturity
scale were used.
Table 1 shows correlations between multi-reporter ratings (mother, father,
closest friend, good friend, acquaintance) of teen delinquency behaviors and
teen’s self-reported behaviors.
Interparental ratings of adolescent delinquency
Mother ratings of delinquency (YSR and PBI), aggression, hostility, and
hyperactivity were significantly related to teens’ self-reported
Father ratings of delinquency (YSR only), hostility, and hyperactivity were
significantly related to teens’ self-reported delinquent behaviors.
Mothers were significantly more reliable than fathers in their ratings of
teen delinquency (YSR and PBI) and aggression, while fathers were
significantly more reliable than mothers in their ratings of teen
Peer ratings of adolescent delinquency
Teen’s closest friend and good friend’s ratings were significantly related to
teens’ self-reported delinquent behaviors.
Aquaintances’ ratings on all types of delinquency were not related to teen
self-reported delinquent behaviors.
Table 2 shows correlations between multi-reporter ratings of teen
delinquency behaviors by teen’s gender. Results show significant
differences in ratings by the adolescent’s gender.
Interparental ratings of adolescent delinquency by gender
Mothers were significantly more reliable than fathers in their ratings for
both male and female teens.
Mother ratings on teen delinquency and aggression were more reliable for
female teens than male teens; however, mother ratings on teen
hostility were more reliable for male teens than female teens.
Interparental ratings of adolescent delinquency by gender (cont’d)
Father ratings of teen delinquency were not significantly related to teen’s
self-reported delinquency for males on both the YSR and PBI.
Mothers were significantly more reliable in their ratings of teen aggression
and hostility in males than females.
In Table 1, fathers were more reliable than mothers in their ratings of teen
hostility and hyperactivity; however in Table 2, we see that:
Mothers were more reliable in reporting male teen hostility and
female teen hyperactivity.
Fathers were more reliable in reporting female teen hostility and
male teen hyperactivity.
Peer ratings of adolescent delinquency by gender
Closest friends were significantly more reliable in rating teen’s delinquency
for both males and females on the YSR, but only for males on the PBI. Their
ratings were also significantly more reliable than father ratings.
The findings highlight clear differences in interparental ratings of adolescent
delinquency. More importantly, the adolescent’s gender interacts with
mothers’ and fathers’ rating reliability.
Overall, mothers are more consistent and reliable raters of both male
and female adolescent delinquency.
Overall, fathers are more consistent and reliable raters of female
adolescent delinquency, aggression, and hostility.
Peer ratings of teen delinquency also vary by the closeness of the friendship.
Overall, closest friends are better reporters of teen delinquency than
good friends and acquaintances.
Gender of adolescent also interacts with peers’ rating reliability.
Table 1. Correlations between multi-
reporter ratings of teen delinquency
Table 2. Gender differences in multi-
reporter ratings of teen delinquency
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