Social Mistrust Scale (2014)

The Social Mistrust Scale (SMS) is FREE to use for all research purposes. However, I ask that you email for permission first.

The SMS (Wong, Freeman, & Hughes, 2014) is a 12-item child-appropriate measure of child-reported suspiciousness. Items are scored on a 3-point scale: no [0], sometimes [1], and yes [2] and respective items are summed to create three distinct yet inter-correlated factors: Home mistrust, School mistrust, and General mistrust (reverse coded) of others. Summing all items creates a total score out of 24 where a higher score denotes higher levels of social mistrust.

To date, the SMS has been administered in over 5,500 children and adolescents between the ages of 7 and 18 years-old in the UK, Hong Kong, and China. More recently, the SMS has been administered to over 2,300 adults (18y+) as part of the UCL-Penn Global COVID study (Wong et al., 2020), and further trangslated into other 8 different languages. Validation studies are yet to be completed.

Key Findings

Consistent three-factor structure (Home, School, and General Mistrust) shown in 6 independent samples to date.
BJP Fig 3
Mistrust is Prevalent in 3% to 17% of young children and adolescents (8 to 14-years-old).
Prevalence of suspiciousness among 8 to 14 year-olds.

Reliability and Validity

To date, the SMS has been administered to five independent samples of children and adolescents (8 to 14 years-old) from the UK, Hong Kong, and Mainland Chinese (Twins). Prevalence rates, factor structure, convergent validity, and heritability estimates (Zhou, Wong et al., 2018) of childhood social mistrust has been documented here. The Chinese translated version of the SMS is available upon request, along with the German, French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish versions.


  1. Wong, K.K., Freeman, D., & Hughes, C. (2014).  Suspicious young minds: paranoia and mistrust in 8- to 14-year olds in the UK and Hong Kong. British Journal of Psychiatry, 205, 1-9.
  2. Zhou, H.Y., Wong, K.K., Shi, L.J., Cui, X.L., Qian, Y., Du, Y.S., Lui, S.S.Y., Luo, X.R., Cheung, E.F.C., & Chan, R.C.K. (2018). Suspiciousness in young minds: Convergent evidence from non-clinical, clinical and community twin samples. Schizophrenia Research.
  3. Wong, K.K. & Raine, A. (2019). Peer Problems and Low Self-Esteem Mediate the Suspicious and Non-Suspicious Schizotypy – Reactive Aggression Relationship in Children and Adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
  4. Wong, K. K. (2020, November 17). Covid19: Global social trust and mental health study. OSF. 
  5. Wong, K. K., Wang, Y., Esposito, G., & Raine, A. (2022). A three timepoint network analysis of COVID-19’s impact on schizotypal traits, paranoia and mental health through loneliness. UCL Open: Environment Preprint.
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