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PSI-SF - Parenting Stress Index, Short Form

This measure is a brief version of the Parenting Stress Index (Abidin, 1995), a widely used and well-researched measure of parenting stress (the full PSI is also reviewed in this database). The PSI-SF has 36 items from the original 120-item PSI. Items are identical to those in the original version.

The version was developed in response to clinicians’ and researchers’ need for a shorter measure of parenting stress and was based on Castaldi’s (1990) factor analysis of the original PSI, which suggested the presence of three factors.

Consistent with this analysis, the PSI-SF yields scores on the following subscales: 1) Parental Distress, 2) Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction, and 3) Difficult Child. Similar to the full PSI, it also has a validity scale.




Abidin, Richard R.

Abidin, R. R. (1995). Parenting Stress Index, Third Edition: Professional Manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.

Cost Involved
Domain Assessed: 
Externalizing Symptoms
Services and Systems
Age Range: 
Measure Type: 
Measure Format: 


Number of Items: 
Average Time to Complete (min): 
Reporter Type: 
Average Time to Score (min): 
Response Format: 

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)

Materials Needed: 
Sample Items: 
DomainsScaleSample Items
Defensive respondingnot available
Total stressParental distressnot available
Parent-child dysfunctional interactionnot available
Difficult childnot available
Information Provided: 
Areas of Concern/Risks
Clinician Friendly Output
Continuous Assessment
Graphs (e.g. of elevated scale)
Raw Scores
Standard Scores


Training to Administer: 
Training to Interpret: 
Prior Experience in Psych Testing/Interpretation

Parallel or Alternate Forms

Parallel Forms: 
Alternate Forms: 
Different Age Forms: 
Altered Version Forms: 
Alternative Forms Description: 

The PSI-Full-Length Version, upon which this measure is based, has 120 items. This measure is also reviewed in the database.


Notes on Psychometric Norms: 

Studies examining gender differences produced no significant differences (Baker et al, 2003; Deater-Deckard & Scarr, 1996; Schiller, 2003).

Clinical Cutoffs: 
Clinical Cutoffs Description: 

normal range=15th-80th percentile. Scores at or above the 85th percentile are considered high and Defensive Reponding scores at 10 or below are considered extremely low.

Test-Retest- # days: 360Acceptable0.680.8576
Internal ConsistencyAcceptableCronbach's alpha0.80.9185
References for Reliability: 

TEST-RETEST RELIABILITY Test-retest data are for the entire normative sample of 800 parents. Total Stress (.84), Parental Distress (.85), Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction (.68), Difficult Child (.78) INTERNAL CONSISTENCY (Cronbach’s alpha) Normative sample: Total Stress (.91), Parental Distress (.87), Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction (.80), Difficult Child (.85) Assessed in 103 Head Start parents: Total Stress (.90), Parental Distress (.79), Parent- Child Dysfunctional Interaction (.80), Difficult Child (.78)

References for Content Validity: 

The development of the PSI-Full-Length Version, upon which this measure is based, is described in the PSI review in this database. The Short Form was developed using factor analysis (see Notes below).

Construct Validity: 
Validity TypeNot knownNot foundNonclincal SamplesClinical SamplesDiverse Samples
Sensitive to ChangeYes
Intervention EffectsYesYes
Longitudinal/Maturation Effects
Sensitive to Theoretically Distinct GroupsYesYesYes
Factorial ValidityYesYes
References for Construct Validity: 

The PSI/SF was developed from factor analysis of the PSI-Full-Length Version. Principal components factor analysis with a varimax rotation was conducted, and items were retained based on the criteria of having factor loadings >.4 on only 1 factor (although some exceptions were made to this criteria). Data from a second sample was used to replicate the factor analysis.

The PSI-SF has been found to be negatively associated with parenting selfefficacy and positively related to the number of family risk factors (Raikes & Thompson, 2005). PSI-SF Difficult Child scores correlated in the expected direction with observations of maternal intrusiveness and sensitivity in a sample of mothers and 6-month-old infants (Calkins, Hungerford, & Dedmon, 2004).

Maternal scores on the PSI-SF have also been found to be related to increased risk for developing insecure attachment in a sample of premature infants (Laganiére, Tessier, & Nadeau, 2003). In addition, maternal parenting concerns during pregnancy are related to later PSI-SF scores (Combs-Orme, Cain, & Wilson, 2004).

The PSI/SF has been found to correlate with the Full-Length form: Total Stress and Total Stress=.94, Parental Distress and Parent Domain=.92, Difficult Child and Child Domain=.87.

PSI-SF scores decreased significantly following a prevention program for neglect conducted with a high-risk, predominantly African American sample.

Improvements were maintained at 6-month follow-up (DePanfilis & Dubowitz, 2005). They have also been found to change following participation in a child crisis care program (rural sample; Cowen, 1998) and a parent education program (Wolfe & Hirsch, 2003).

PSI-SF scores appear to differentiate between a number of different groups including: 1) mothers of toddlers with expressive language delays versus a comparison group (Irwin, Carter, & Briggs-Gowan, 2002), 2) substance abusing mothers versus nonsubstance-abusing mothers (low income, predominantly African American sample; Kelley, 1998), and 3) parents of depressed children versus parents of non-depressed children (Tan & Rey, 2005).

1. In a sample of adolescent parents, PSI-SF scores were associated with partner violence, conflict over child, and economic stress (Larson, 2004).

2. In a sample of foster care children and their caregivers, PSI-SF scores were related to participation in treatment, with kin caregivers more likely than non-kin caregivers to complete treatment (PCIT) if they had higher levels of parenting stress (Timmer, Sedlar, & Urquiza, 2004).

3. In a sample of military families, the PSI-SF was a significant predictor of Child Abuse Potential Scores for both mothers and fathers (Schaeffer,
Alexander, Bethke, & Kretz, 2005).

4. In a sample of 47 children referred to treatment due to sexual behavior problems (25% had been sexually abused, 47% had experienced physical
abuse, 58% had witnessed interparental violence), PSI-SF mean scores were shown to be elevated (Silovsky & Niec, 2002).

5. Mothers sexually abused as children reported higher levels of parenting stress than did non-abused mothers (Douglas, 2000).

6. The PSI-SF was used to validate an analysis that identified two clusters of abusive parents. “Cluster 1: parents were warm, positive, sensitive, and engaged during interactions with children whereas Cluster 2 parents were relatively negative, disengaged, or intrusive, and insensitive.” Cluster 1 parents had lower PSI-SF scores than did Cluster 1 parents (Haskett, Smith, & Sabourin, 2004).

7. Parents of children with traumatic brain injuries have been found to have higher PSI-SF scores than did parents of uninjured children (Hawley, Ward, Magnay, & Long, 2003).

1. The PSI-SF has been used in a number of studies with parents of children with health problems and disabilities, with evidence of relation between parenting stress and support, income, and children’s health care needs and impairment, thus supporting its validity (Button, Pianta, & Marvin, 2001; Smith, Oliver, & Innocenti, 2001; Waisbren et al., 2004).

2. The measure has also been used with parents of children with autism, with maladaptive and adaptive child behavior being related to PSI-SF scores (Tomanik, Harris, & Hawkins, 2004).

3. The PSI-SF has been used in numerous studies with adolescent parents, with data supporting its validity in this population (e.g., Spencer, Kalill, Larson, Spieker, & Gilchrist, 2002).

4. Reitman, Currier, & Stickle (2002) examined the psychometrics of the PSI/SF in a sample of 196 lower-income, predominantly ethnic minority parents (85% African American) recruited during Head Start orientation meetings. They reported good internal consistencies: Parental Distress (.88), Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction (.88), Difficult Child (.89), Total Stress (.95). A confirmatory factor analysis suggested that a 3-factor model was only somewhat more superior to a single-factor model.

However, results of multiple regression analyses supported a 3-factor model. Regression analyses for difficult child found that the CPRS-R, Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), and family income contributed variance. Regression analyses for Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction and Parental Distress showed that the BSI and family income contributed significant variance. These analyses provide support for the concurrent validity of the measure.

5. All scales of the PSI-SF were found to be related to mothers’ strategies for facilitating peer interactions in a sample of low-income African American mothers (Bhavnagri, 1999).

6. The measure has been used with Kenyan grandmothers, with data providing support for the validity of the measure in this population (Oburu & Palmërus, 2003).

7. Two studies have examined the use of the measure with Chinese-speaking groups. In a sample of Taiwanese parents, parents of children with cancer showed higher PSI-SF scores than those of parents of children with developmental disabilities (Hung, Wu, & Yeh, 2004). The study also shows internal consistency for all PSI-SF scales >.80.

8. In an Italian sample, PSI-SF scores were associated with Type A Behavior Pattern scores (Forgays, Ottaway, Guarino, & D’Alessio, 2001).

Criterion Validity: 
Not KnownNot FoundNonclinical SamplesClinical SamplesDiverse Samples
Predictive Validity:
Postdictive Validity:
Overall Psychometric Limitations: 

It is expected that the Short Form version of the PSI shares in the validity of the full-length version because it is a direct derivative of the longer form. Existing findings are consistent with this hypothesis.


Translation Quality: 
Language:TranslatedBack TranslatedReliableGood PsychometricsSimilar Factor StructureNorms AvailableMeasure Developed for this Group
1. SpanishYesYesYesYes
2. ChineseYesYesYesYes
3. PortugueseYesYesYesYes
4. Finnish YesYes
5. JapaneseYesYesYesYes
6. ItalianYesYes
7. Hebrew YesYes
8. DutchYesYes
9. French YesYesYesYes
10. IcelandicYesYes

Population Information

Population Used for Measure Development: 

From Abidin, 1995:

Sample: 570 mothers selected from a well-care pediatric practice in Virginia and 270 mothers from the same practice.

Age of Children: 10-84 months (M=43, SD=9.7)

Gender: 47% female, 53% male

Children’s Ethnicity: 87% White, 10% African American, and 3% Other

Marital status: 88% married, 6% single, 4% divorced, and 2% separated

Education: 8th grade or less (22.5%), 9th-12th (37.4% ), vocational or some college (37.4%), and college graduates (37.4%)

For Specific Population: 
Military and Veteran Families
Populations with which Measure Has Demonstrated Reliability and Validity: 
Physical Abuse
Sexual Abuse
Medical Trauma
Domestic Violence
Use with Diverse Populations: 
Population Type: Measure Used with Members of this GroupMembers of this Group Studied in Peer-Reviewed JournalsReliableGood PsychometricsNorms AvailableMeasure Developed for this Group
1. Developmental disabilityYes
2. Lower socio-economic statusYesYesYesYes
3. Rural populationsYesYes
4. African AmericansYesYesYesYes

Pros & Cons/References


1. The measure offers a quick, easy way to screen for parenting stress.

2. The psychometric properties of the PSI-SF look good.

3. The measure is widely used.

4. The concept of parenting stress is an important one for families that have experienced traumatic events.


1. The Short Form version of the PSI examines the parent-child dyad in much less depth than does the full-length version.

2. 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 this can be addressed with the validity scale, it is nevertheless a problem when conducting outcome research.

3. The ability of the measure to detect change due to treatment in clinical populations and in trauma samples has not yet been examined; however, studies are under way, and it is expected that the short form will have similar results as those found with the full version.

4. Some researchers who have attempted to use a Spanish version of this measure with low-income communities have found that research participants have a hard time understanding specific items. The problem does not seem to stem from the translation itself but with 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. Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.

A PsychInfo search (6/05) of the words "Parenting Stress Index-Short Form" or “PSI” anywhere revealed that the measure has been referenced in 87 peer-reviewed journal articles. Below is a sample:

1Baker, B., McIntyre, L., Blacher, J., Crnic, K., Edelbrock, C. & Low, C. (2003) Preschool children with and without developmental delay: behaviour problems and parenting stress over time. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 47, 217–230.

Bhavnagri, N. P. (1999). Low-income African American mothers' parenting stress and instructional strategies to promote peer relationships in preschool children. Early Education & Development, 10(4), 551-571.

Button, S., Pianta, R. C., & Marvin, R. S. (2001). Partner support and maternal stress in families raising young children with cerebral palsy. Journal of Developmental & Physical Disabilities, 13(1), 61-81.

Calkins, S. D., Hungerford, A., & Dedmon, S. E. (2004). Mothers' interactions with temperamentally frustrated infants. Infant Mental Health Journal, 25(3), 219-239.

Combs-Orme, T., Cain, D. S., & Wilson, E. E. (2004). Do maternal concerns at delivery predict parenting stress during infancy? Child Abuse & Neglect, 28(4), 377-392.

Cowen, P. S. (1998). Crisis child care: An intervention for at-risk families. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 21(3), 147-158.

Deater-Deckard, K., & Scarr, S. (1996). Parenting stress among dual-earner mother and fathers: Are there gender differences. Journal of Family Psychology, 10(1), 45-59.

DePanfilis, D., & Dubowitz, H. (2005). Family connections: A program for preventing child neglect. Child Maltreatment: Journal of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, 10(2), 108-123.

Douglas, A. R. (2000). Reported anxieties concerning intimate parenting in women sexually abused as children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24(3), 425-434.

Forgays, D. K., Ottaway, S. A., Guarino, A., & D'Alessio, M. (2001). Parenting stress in employed and at-home mothers in Italy. Journal of Family & Economic Issues, 22(4), 327-351.

Haskett, M. E., Smith Scott, S., & Sabourin Ward, C. (2004). Subgroups of physically abusive parents based on cluster analysis of parenting behavior and affect. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74, 436-447.

Hawley C A, Ward A B, Magnay A & Long J., (2004). Outcomes following childhood head injury: a population study., Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 75(5), 737 – 742.

Hung, J. W., Wu, Y., & Yeh, C. (2004). Comparing stress levels of parents of children with cancer and parents of children with physical disabilities. Psycho-Oncology, 13(12), 898-903.

Irwin, J. R., Carter, A. S., & Briggs-Gowan, M. J. (2002). The social-emotional development of "late-talking" toddlers. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 41(11), 1324-1332.

Kelley, S. J. (1998). Stress and coping behaviors of substance-abusing mothers. Journal of the Society of Pediatric Nurses, 3(3), 103-110.

Laganiére, J., Tessier, R., & Nadeau, L. (2003). Mother-infant attachment and prematurity: A link mediatized by maternal perceptions/Attachement dans le cas de prématurité: Un lien médiatisé par les perceptions maternelles. Enfance, 55(2) 101-117.

Larson, N. C. (2004). Parenting stress among adolescent mothers in the transition to adulthood. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 21(5), 457-476.

Oburu, P. O., & Palmërus, K. (2003). Parenting stress and self-reported discipline strategies of Kenyan caregiving grandmothers. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 27(6), 505-512.

Raikes, H. A., & Thompson, R. A. (2005). Efficacy and social support as predictors of parenting stress among families in poverty. Infant Mental Health Journal, 26(3), 177-190.

Reitman, D., Currier, R. O., & Stickle, T. R. (2002). A critical evaluation of the parenting stress index-short form (PSI-SF) in a Head Start population. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 31(3), 384-392.

Schaeffer, C. M., Alexander, P. C., Bethke, K., & Kretz, L. S. (2005). Predictors of child
abuse potential among military parents: Comparing mothers and fathers. Journal of Family
Violence, 20(2), 123-129.

Silovsky, J. F., & Niec, L. (2002). Characteristics of young children with sexual behavior problems: A pilot study. Child Maltreatment: Journal of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, 7(3), 187-197.

Smith, T. B., Oliver, M. N. I., & Innocenti, M. S. (2001). Parenting stress in families of children with disabilities. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71(2), 257-261.

Spencer, M. S., Kalill, A., Larson, N. C., Spieker, S. J., & Gilchrist, L. D. (2002). Multigenerational coresidence and childrearing conflict: Links to parenting stress in teenage mothers across the first two years postpartum. Applied Developmental Science, 6(3) 157-170.

Tan, S., & Rey, J. (2005). Depression in the young, parental depression and parenting stress. Australasian Psychiatry, 13(1) 76-79.

Timmer, S. G., Sedlar, G., & Urquiza, A. J. (2004). Challenging children in kin versus nonkin foster care: Perceived costs and benefits to caregivers. Child Maltreatment: Journal of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, 9(3), 251-262.

Tomanik, S., Harris, G. E., & Hawkins, J. (2004). The relationship between behaviours exhibited by children with autism and maternal stress. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 29(1), 16-26.

Waisbren, S. E., Rones, M., Read, C. Y., Marsden, D., & Levy, H. L. (2004). Brief report: Predictors of parenting stress among parents of children with biochemical genetic disorders. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 29(7), 565-570.

Wolfe, R. B., & Hirsch, B. J. (2003). Outcomes of parent education programs based on
reevaluation counseling. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 12(1) 61-76.

Other Related References
1. Abidin, R. A. (1976). Parenting skills. New York: Human Sciences Press.

Developer of Review: 
Chandra Ghosh Ippen, Ph.D., Cara Kuendig, Laura Mayorga, Ph.D.
Editor of Review: 
Chandra Ghosh Ippen, Ph.D., Nicole Taylor, Ph.D.; Robyn Igelman, M.A.
Last Updated: 
Monday, February 3, 2014