Parenting Stress Index, Full-length Version
- Parallel/Alternate Forms
- Translation Quality
- Population Information
- Pros & Cons/References
Abidin, R.R. (1995). Parenting Stress Index, Third Edition: Professional Manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.
The PSI is a very well-researched and widely used measure of
parenting stress, which has been shown to be sensitive to
intervention effects across a variety of studies, populations, and
treatments. This measure assesses three areas of stress in the
parent-child relationship: (a) child characteristics, (b) parent
characteristics, and (c) stress stemming from situational or
High levels of stress in the parenting relationship, assessed using
the PSI, have been associated with problems in parenting
behavior, impaired parent-child behavior, and child
The PSI categories may be used toward: “(a) screening for early
identification, (b) assessment for individual diagnosis, (c) pre-post
measurement of intervention effectiveness, and (d) research
aimed at studying the effects of stress on parent-child
interactions and in relation to other psychological variables.”
(Abidin, 1995, p. iv)
In general, items are scored using the following 5-point scale: 1) SA (Strongly Agree), 2) A (Agree), 3) NS (Not Sure), 4) D (Disagree), 5) SD (Strongly Disagree).
For life stress items, reporters indicate whether the events have occurred (Yes/No) in the past 12 months.
|Child Domain||Distractability||Not available|
|Adaptability (child)||Not available|
|Reinforces Parent||Not available|
|Demandingness (child)||Not available|
|Mood (child)||Not available|
|Acceptability (child)||Not available|
|Competence (child)||Not available|
There is a short form of the PSI, consisting of 36 items from this version. A review of the short form is included in the NCTSN Measure Review Database.
From Abidin (1995)
The original norm group consisted of 2,633 mothers aged 16-61 (M=30.9)
and their children aged 1 month to 12 years (M=4.9, SD=3.1). The majority
(41%) were recruited from well-child pediatric clinics in Central Virginia.
Other participants were recruited from public school day care centers, public
schools, public and private pediatric clinics, and a health maintenance
program. Participants’ ethnicity was 76% White, 11% African American, 10%
Hispanic, 2% Asian, and 1% Other.
Socioeconomic status, education, and employment status were widely
distributed across the sample.
Income: 27% of the sample had a total annual family income less than
Marital status: 77% of the mothers in the sample were married, 14% were
divorced, 4% were separated, 4% never married, and 1% were widowed.
The mean number of children living in the home was 2.1 (SD = 1.2).
Normative data were also collected from 200 fathers aged 18-65 (M=32.1,
SD=6.01) Ethnic group composition was approximately 95% White and 5%
Education: 48% college graduates, 20% vocational training or some college,
23% high school graduates, and 9% less than 12 years of education. In
comparison to mothers, fathers show lower scores on many PSI scales.
Separate norms were collected using the Spanish version of the PSI with a
sample of 223 Hispanic parents recruited from pediatric clinics of a major
medical center in New York City. Mean age of mothers was 30.8 years
(SD=7.4), mean age for fathers was 34.5 (SD=7.8), and the mean age for
target children was 51.7 months (SD=39.6%).
Marital status: 64% married, 14% single, 14% separated, 6% divorced, and
Socioeconomic status was widely distributed.
Mothers’ birthplace included: Puerto Rico (29%), Dominican Republic (22%),
United States, (21%), Ecuador, (12%), and other Spanish-speaking
countries (16%). Fathers’ birthplace included: Puerto Rico (38%),
Dominican Republic (22%), United States (15%), Ecuador (11%), and other
Spanish-speaking countries (14%).
Using Hollingshead Social Class Status of Family Classification: 5.4% was
classified as I (high), 12.2% was classified as II, 23.4% was classified as III,
26.6% was classified as IV, and 32.4% was classified as V (low).
|Test-Retest-# days:60||Acceptable||Pearson's r||0.63||0.96||0.83|
|Internal Consistency||Acceptable||Cronbach's alpha||0.7||0.95||0.81|
Data are from Abidin (1995). Data in the table (above) are from the normative sample.
Four studies have examined test-retest reliability. Studies used intervals ranging from 3
weeks to 1 year. In general, correlations were above .60 (with the exception of the Child
Domain 1-year reliability coefficient, which was .55).
The range of scores reported above is from a study involving 30 mothers from a group
pediatric practice with a test-retest administration period of 1 to 3 months. This study
reported the following scores: Child Domain (.63), Parent Domain (.91), Total Stress (.96).
INTERNAL CONSISTENCY (Cronbach’s alpha)
Child Domain Total (.90), Adaptability (.76), Acceptability (.79), Demandingness (.73),
Mood (.73), Distractibility/Hyperactivity (.82), Reinforces parent (.83)
Parent Domain Total (.93), Depression (.84), Attachment (.75), Role Restriction (.79),
Competence (.83), Isolation (.82), Spouse (.81), Health (.70)
Total Stress (.95)
Hauenstein et al. (1987): A validation sample: 1) Child Domain subscales=.59-.78, 2)
Parent Domain subscales=.57-.79, and 3) Total Stress and Domain scores=all >.90.
(Summarized from Abidin, 1995)
Items were developed from a comprehensive listing of dimensions identified based on review
of literature on infant development, parent-child interaction, attachment, child abuse and
neglect, child psychopathology, childrearing practices, and stress. Items were piloted on 208
mothers of children younger than age 3 who brought their children to well-child clinics.
Based on the pilot, it was determined that most mothers completed the measure in 20-30
minutes and that it was understandable to those who had at least a 5th-grade education. A
panel of six professionals in the area of early parent-child relationships rated items for
relevance and adequacy of construction.
Ultimately, the number of items was reduced through field tests and examination of
correlations between items and domain scales, with items not contributing to domains or
|Validity Type||Not known||Not found||Nonclincal Samples||Clinical Samples||Diverse Samples|
|Sensitive to Change||Yes||Yes|
|Sensitive to Theoretically Distinct Groups||Yes||Yes||Yes|
As noted in the reference section, the PSI has been used in well over 500
studies. It is not possible to review all of them. The research summarized below
focuses on looking at the use of the PSI with trauma and diverse populations
and as a treatment outcome measure. The focus is also on literature published
after 1995, when the manual was published.
1. Validity: This measure has been widely used and validated with a broad
variety of populations including: mothers of developmentally delayed children,
mothers of infants exposed to cocaine prenatally, clinical samples, parents of
children with conduct disorders, parents of hyperactive children, parents of
children with attention deficit disorder, depressed mothers, parents of children
with various disabilities and physical illnesses, parents who have adopted
children, grandparents, adolescents, and parents who have used in-vitro
It has also been used in attachment studies, language development studies, and
treatment-outcome studies. Construct validity has been found in a wide variety of
populations including a myriad of developmental issues, behavior problems,
disabilities, illnesses, and ethnic backgrounds. The PSI manual, as well as the
author’s website, provides an exhaustive list of studies that can be referred to,
depending on the relevant population.
2. Examples of treatment outcome studies include: Robbins, Dunlap, & Plienis,
(1991), N=12, children and mothers participating in a preschool training project,
Acton and During (1992), n=29, parents completing an aggression management
training program for children with aggressive problems, Barkley et al. (1988),
n=23, parents of children with ADD who got Ritalin dosages.
The PSI has been used in numerous randomized trials of treatments for
disruptive disorder including Webster-Stratton’s treatment (e.g., Webster-
Stratton & Hammond, 1997, Webster-Stratton, Hollinsworth, & Kolpakoff, 1989)
and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (e.g., Bagner & Eyberg, 2003; Nixon,
Sweeney, Erickson, & Touyz, 2003; Nixon, Sweeney, Erickson, & Touyz, 2004).
Treatment mothers show greater PSI reductions than did mothers of comparison
group children, and reductions are maintained at follow-up.
In another study, PSI scores were found to be related to participation in
treatment for child behavior problems. Mothers who failed to attend a first
appointment following referral had higher levels of parenting stress than those
who did attend (Calam, Bolton, & Roberts, 2002).
3. PSI scores have been found to predict later child behavior problems in at-risk
samples (Goldberg et al., 1997). In a longitudinal analysis, parenting stress in
infancy due to the child’s distractibility predicted Child Behavior Problems on the
ECBI at age 7 (Benzies, Harrison, & Magill-Evans, 2004).
4. PSI scores differentiate between a number of different groups. Mothers of
children with multiple diagnoses (ADHD/ODD or ADHD/ODD/CD) have higher
PSI scores than did mothers of ADHD-only children (Ross et al., 1998). In a highrisk
sample, PSI scores for mothers with five or more risks were significantly
higher than for mothers with four or fewer risks (Nair et al., 2003).
5. Factorial validity was found in three separate analyses, one for each domain:
Child Domain, Parent Domain, and overall. In the Child Domain, the 6 factors
accounted for 41% of the variance. In the Parent Domain, the 7 factors
accounted for 44% of the variance.
Overall, the two domains as factors accounted for 58% of the variance. A factor
analysis with Chinese (Hong Kong) mothers replicated this structure. However,
analyses with African-American and Latina samples have found a 3-factor
solution best fit the data (see Notes under “Use With Diverse Populations" for
USE WITH TRAUMA POPULATIONS
1. PSI scores correlated with scores on the Child Abuse and Trauma Scale in a
sample of mothers recovering from drug and alcohol addiction (Harmer,
Sanderson, & Mertin, 1999).
2. Parents of children in treatment for sexual behaviors displayed high levels of
parenting stress (total stress and child domain), with average scores in the 91st
percentile. Biological parents scored significantly higher than did foster parents
on total stress (Pithers, Gray, Busconi, & Houchens, 1998).
3. Multiple studies have shown correlations between PSI scores and Child
Abuse Potential Inventory Scores (e.g., Holden, Willis, & Foltz, 1989, Rodriguez
& Green, 1997).
4. Neglecting parents scored significantly lower on PSI scales than physically
abusive parents (Holden, Willis, & Foltz, 1989).
5. In a sample of Hong Kong mothers, abusive mothers had higher scores than
did nonabusive mothers on the Parent Domain, Child Domain, and Total PSI
scores. PSI scores alone correctly classified 62.16% of cases as abusive or nonabusive.
6. A French-Canadian study (Lacharité, Éthier, & Couture, 1999) examined the
sensitivity and specificity of the PSI with regard to discriminating maltreating
from nonmaltreating mothers. (See next section, #5, last paragraph.)
USE WITH DIVERSE POPULATIONS
1. The PSI has been used in numerous studies of adolescent mothers.
Interestingly, PSI scores were related to peer support but not to family
support in one study of 66 adolescent mothers (Richardson, Barbour, & Bubenzer, 1995).
2. The PSI has also been used in numerous studies with low-income African
American mothers. Hutcheson & Black (1996) report acceptable internal
consistency and 6-month test-retest reliability. Factor analysis suggests a 3-
factor solution best fit the data with Parent, Child, and Parent-Child Interaction
factors. Parenting stress has been found to be related to observations of
parenting behavior (Chang et al., 2004).
3. A Spanish version of the PSI is available from PAR, and its psychometric
properties were investigated by Solis & Abidin (1991). A description of the
population involved can be found under “Norms.” They found good internal
consistency for domain scores and most subscales (alpha): Child Domain (.94),
Adaptability (.65), Acceptability (.74), Demandingness (.58), Mood (.63),
Distractibility/Hyperactivity (.65), Reinforces Parent (.76), Parent Domain (.92),
Depression (.75), Attachment (.58), Restriction of Role (.74), Sense of
Competence (.73), Social Isolation (.74), Relationship with Spouse (.76), Parent
Health (.71), Total Stress (.94).
Principal components analysis with a varimax rotation for a 2-factor solution
(replicating procedures used with the original sample) did not result in a clean
solution, and a 3-factor solution was identified based on the scree test and
interpretability of the factors.
Factor 1 was composed of Depression, Restriction of Role, Social Isolation,
Relationship with Spouse, and Parental Health (all are Parent Domain
subscales). Factor 2 included Reinforces Parent, Attachment, Acceptability, and
Sense of Competence. This factor was identified as the “Parent-Child
Interaction Factor.” Factor 3 included Adaptability, Demandingness, Mood, and
Distractibility (all are Child Domain subscales). A subsample of mothers with
children with a physical or mental handicap was compared to the remaining 200
mothers. They had higher scores on all domains and subscales except Sense of
Competence and Attachment.
Solís-Cámara et al. (2004) found intervention effects using the PSI with Spanishspeaking
parents in Mexico.
4. Tam, Chan, & Wong (1994) examined the psychometrics of the PSI with 2
samples of Chinese mothers in Hong Kong. The first sample included mothers
of children with mental retardation, autism, Down Syndrome, and also physically
abusive mothers. This sample was considered to have high levels of stress.
The second sample was recruited from the community. All mothers spoke
Cantonese. A slightly modified version of the PSI (items 59 and 60 “slightly
modified to suit the Hong Kong context”) was used. The results suggest good
internal consistency for domain scores. Internal consistency ranged from good to
poor for subscales.
Reliabilities were as follows: Child Domain (.85), Adaptability (.65), Acceptability
(.65), Demandingness (.69), Mood (.41), Distractibility/Hyperactivity (.40),
Reinforces Parent (.63), Parent Domain (.91), Depression (.75), Attachment
(.39), Restriction of Role (.81), Sense of Competence (.74), Social Isolation
(.69), Relationship with Spouse (.67), Parent Health (.71), Total Stress (.93).
Validity was supported by correlations with the General Health Questionnaire,
Langner’s Stress Scale, the Global Assessment of Recent Stress Scale, and
single-item measures of self-perceived parenting difficulty and self-perceived
PSI scores differentiated between high-stress and low-stress groups
(categorized on the basis of responses to statements regarding stress from child
care). Exploratory principal components factor analysis with a varimax rotation
identified 2 factors with a structure similar to that found in Abidin (1983).
Chan (1994) assessed 50 identified abusive mothers and 37 community sample
nonabusive mothers of similar demographic and socioeconomic background.
Both samples were recruited in Hong Kong. Abusive mothers had significantly
higher scores on all three PSI domains (Child, Parent, and Life Stress). They
also had statistically higher scores on the Acceptability, Mood, Reinforces
Parent, and Attachment subscales. PSI scores correctly classified 62.2% of the
mothers as abusive or nonabusive.
5. The psychometrics of the French-Canadian version of the PSI have also
been studied in numerous studies. Bigras, La Freniere, & Dumas (1996)
conducted regression analyses using the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, a rating of
Insularity, and the Beck Depression Inventory. Each of these measures was
moderately correlated with the PSI Parent and Child Domain scores. The Parent
Domain score of the PSI was a better predictor of these variables than was the
Lacharité, Éthier, & Couture (1999) examined the sensitivity and specificity of the
PSI in a sample of 81 maltreating (44.3% neglect, 14.7% abuse, and 41%
neglect and abuse) and 81 nonmaltreating mothers of low socioeconomic
status. They found an increase in correct classification when the subscales of
Adaptability, Hyperactivity, and Competence were included into the analysis.
Sensitivity using total scores was 67.9%; using the subscales it was 76.5%.
Specificity using total scores was 79%; using subscales it was 75.3%.
|Not Known||Not Found||Nonclinical Samples||Clinical Samples||Diverse Samples|
Sensitivity and Specificy (reported above) are from a study using the French-Canadian version of the PSI and examine the Sensitivity and Specificity of the total PSI score in discriminating abusive from nonabusive mothers.
While there are norms for Spanish speakers, it should be noted that the norms were developed with an East Coast sample. Norms for other Spanish-speaking groups, e.g.,immigrants from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, and Columbia, may differ from those collected, given the high rates of trauma often experienced by immigrants from these countries.
|Language:||Translated||Back Translated||Reliable||Good Psychometrics||Similar Factor Structure||Norms Available||Measure Developed for this Group|
|1.Spanish (Spain, Puerto Rico)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Pilot testing during development consisted of a group of 208 mothers of children younger than 3 years of age who brought their children to the well-child clinic of a private pediatric group in Charlottesville, Va.
|Population Type:||Measure Used with Members of this Group||Members of this Group Studied in Peer-Reviewed Journals||Reliable||Good Psychometrics||Norms Available||Measure Developed for this Group|
|1. Developmental disability||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|3. Lower socio-economic status||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|4. African American||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Pros & Cons/References
1. Widely used.
2. Psychometrically sound, reliable and validated across a range of populations.
3. Normative data available.
4. Translated into multiple languages.
5. Sensitive to change resulting from treatment.
6. The concept of parenting stress is one that is important for families who have
experienced traumatic events. Parenting stress may be an important target for traumafocused interventions.
1. The measure is face valid and in mandated samples (as with other measures), many
parents score low even when they have high levels of stress. Although there is a validity
scale, research suggests that the PSI validity scales are not as good at detecting invalid
responses as validity scales on the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (Milner & Crouch,
2. The measure is long. It yields important and good information, but it does present a burden to participants.
3. Some researchers who have attempted to use the Spanish version of the measure with
low-income samples have found that participants often have a hard time understanding
specific items. The problem appears to stem from the use of double negatives, which may
be harder to process in the Spanish language.
The reference for the manual is:
Abidin, R.R. (1995). Parenting Stress Index, Third Edition: Professional Manual. Odessa,
FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.
The manual lists over 300 studies that have used the PSI. A PsychInfo search (6/05) using
the words “Parenting Stress Index” or “PSI” anywhere revealed that the measure has been
referenced in 621 peer-reviewed journal articles. After eliminating those that clearly
referenced the PSI-SF, 536 remained. Below is a sampling of those articles:
1. Abidin, R. R. (1983).Parenting Stress Index — manual. Charlottesville, Virginia: Pediatric
2. Acton, R.G., & During, S.M. Preliminary results of aggresssion management training for
aggressive parents. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7(3), 410-417.
3. Bagner, D.M., & Eyberg, S.M. (2003). Father involvement in parent training: When does it
matter? Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 32(4), 599-605.
4. Barkley, R.A., Fischer, M., Newby, R.F., & Breen, M.J. (1988). Development of a
multimethod clinical protocol for assessing stimulant drug response in children with attention
deficit disorder. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 17(1), 14-24.
5. Benzies, K.M., Harrison, M.J., & Magill-Evans, J. (2004). Parenting stress, marital quality,
and child behavior problems at age 7 years. Public Health Nursing, 21(2), 111-121.
6. Bigras, M., La Freniere, P.J., & Dumas, J.E. (1996). Discriminant validity of the parent
and child scales of the Parenting Stress Index. Early Education and Development, 7(2),
7. Calam, R., Bolton, C., & Roberts, J. (2002). Maternal expressed emotion, attributions and
depression and entry into therapy for children with behaviour problems. British Journal of
Clinical Psychology, 41(2), 213-216.
8. Chan, Y.C. (1994). Parenting stress and social support of mothers who physically abuse
their children in Hong Kong. Child Abuse and Neglect, 18(3), 261-269.
9. Chang, Y., Fine, M.A., Ispa, J., Thornburg, K.R., Sharp, E., & Wolfenstein, M. (2004).
Understanding parenting stress among low-income, African-American first-time mothers.
Early Education and Development, 15(3), 265-282.
10. Goldberg, S., Janus, M., Washington, J., Simmons, R.J., MacLusky, I., & Fowler, R.S.
(1997). Prediction of preschool behavioral problems in healthy and pediatric samples.
Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 18(5), 304-313.
11. Harmer, A. L.M., Sanderson, J., & Mertin, P. (1999). Influence of negative childhood
experiences on psychological functioning, social support, and parenting for mothers
recovering from addiction. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23(5), 421-433.
12. Holden, E.W., Willis, D.J., & Foltz, L. (1989). Child abuse potential and parenting stress:
Relationships in maltreating parents. Psychological Assessment, 1(1), 64-67.
13. Hutcheson, J.J., & Black, M.M. (1996). Psychometric properties of the Parenting Stress
Index in a sample of low-income African-American mothers of infants and toddlers. Early
Education and Development, 7(4), 381-400.
14. Innocenti, M.S., Huh, K., & Boyce, G.C. (1992). Families of children with disabilities:
Normative data and other considerations on parenting stress. Topics in Early Childhood
Special Education, 12(3), 403-427.
15. Lacharité, C., Éthier, L.S., & Couture, G. (1999). Sensitivity and specificity of the
Parenting Stress Index in situations of child maltreatment/Sensibilité et spécificité de l'indice
de stress parental face à des situations de mauvais traitements d'enfants. Canadian Journal
of Behavioural Science, 31(4), 217-220.
16. Loyd, B.H., & Abidin, R.R. (1985). Revision of the Parenting Stress Index. Journal of
Pediatric Psychology, 10(2), 169-177.
17. Milner, J.S., & Crouch, J.L. (1997). Impact and detection of response distortions on
parenting measures used to assess risk for child physical abuse. Journal of Personality
Assessment, 69(3), 633-650.
18. Nair, P., Schuler, M.E., Black, M.M., Kettinger, L., & Harrington, D. (2003). Cumulative
environmental risk in substance abusing women: Early intervention, parenting stress, child
abuse potential and child development. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27(9), 997-1017.
19. Nixon, R.D.V., Sweeney, L., Erickson, D.B., & Touyz, S.W. (2004). Parent-Child
Interaction Therapy: One and two-year follow-up of standard and abbreviated treatments for
oppositional preschoolers. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32(3), 263-271.
20. Nixon, R.D.V., Sweeney, L., Erickson, D.B., & Touyz, S.W. (2003). Parent-Child
Interaction Therapy: A comparison of standard and abbreviated treatments for oppositional
defiant preschoolers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(2), 251-260.
21. Pithers, W.D., Gray, A., Busconi, A., & Houchens, P. (1998). Caregivers of children with
sexual behavior problems: Psychological and familial functioning. Child Abuse & Neglect,
22. Puura, K., Davis, H., Cox, A., Tsiantis, J., Tamminen, T., Ispanovic-Radojkovic, V., et al.
(2005). The European Early Promotion Project: Description of the service and evaluation
study. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion. Special Issue: The European Early
Promotion Project (EEPP), 7(1), 17-30.
23. Richardson, R.A., Barbour, N.E., & Bubenzer, D.L. (1995). Peer relationships as a
source of support for adolescent mothers. Journal of Adolescent Research, 10(2), 278-290.
24. Robbins, F. R., Dunlap, G., & Plienis, A. J. (1991). Family characteristics, family
training, and the progress of young children with autism.Journal of Early Intervention, 15,
25. Rodriguez, C.M., & Green, A.J. (1997). Parenting stress and anger expression as
predictors of child abuse potential. Child Abuse & Neglect, 21(4), 367-377.
26. Ross, C.N., Blanc, H.M., McNeil, C.B., Eyberg, S.M., & Hembree-Kigin, T.L. (1998).
Parenting stress in mothers of young children with oppositional defiant disorder and other
severe behavior problems. Child Study Journal, 28(2), 93-110.
27. Solis, M.L., & Abidin, R. (1991). The Spanish version Parenting Stress Index: A
psychometric study. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 20(4), 372-378.
28. Solís-Cámara R.P., Salcido, P.C., Romero, M.D., & Aguirre, B.I.R. (2004).
Multidimensional effects of a parenting program on the reciprocal interaction between
parents and their young children with behavior problems/Efectos multidimensionales de un
programa de crianza en la interacción recíproca entre padres y sus niños pequenos con
problemas de comportamiento. Psicologia Conductual, 12(2), 197-214.
29. Tam, K., Chan, Y., & Wong, C.M. (1994). Validation of the Parenting Stress Index
among Chinese mothers in Hong Kong. Journal of Community Psychology, 22(3), 211-223.
30. Webster-Stratton, C., Hollinsworth, T., Kolpacoff, M. (1989). The long-term
effectiveness of three cost-effective training programs for families with conduct problem
children. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology. Vol 57(4), 550-553.
31. Webster-Stratton, C., & Hammond, M. (1997). Treating children with early-onset
conduct problems: A comparison of child and parent intervention trainings. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65(1), 93-109.
Other Related References
1. Abidin, R. A. (1976). Parenting skills. New York: Human Sciences Press.