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TABS - Trauma and Attachment Belief Scale

The TABS is the revised version of the Traumatic Stress Institute (TSI) Belief Scale and was designed for use with individuals who have experienced traumatic events. However, it has also been used by researchers to assess the effects of vicarious traumatization. It assesses beliefs/cognitive schema in five areas that may be affected by traumatic experiences: 1) Safety, 2) Trust, 3) Esteem, 4) Intimacy, and 5) Control. The measure yields a total TABS score and scores on ten subscales: 1) Self-Safety, 2) Other-Safety, 3) Self Trust, 4) Other- Trust, 5) Self-Esteem, 6) Other-Esteem, 7) Self-Intimacy, 8) Other-Intimacy, 9) Self-Control, and 10) Other-Control. The TABS can "help identify possible trauma history, psychological themes in trauma materials, document progress in treatment, and help direct clinicians focus their treatment" (Pearlman, 2003). Although the measure was originally normed with adults aged 17 and older, it was designed to be suitable for adolescents, and adolescent norms are now available.




Pearlman, Laurie, Anne, Ph.D.

Pearlman, L.A. (2003). Trauma and Attachment Belief Scale. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.

Cost Involved
Domain Assessed: 
Trauma Exposure/Reminders
Psychosocial Functioning
Age Range: 
Measure Type: 
In-depth Assessment
Measure Format: 


Number of Items: 
Reporter Type: 
Response Format: 

Rating scale of 1 to 6 (1=Disagree Strongly to 6= Agree Strongly)

Materials Needed: 
Sample Items: 
DomainsScaleSample Items
Self-SafetyWhen I am alone, I don't feel safe.
Other-SafetyThe important people in my life are in danger.
Self-TrustI can trust my own judgement.
Other-TrustYou can't trust anyone.
Self-EsteemI don't feel like I deserve much.
Other-EsteemPeople are wonderful.
Self-IntimacyI hate to be alone.
Information Provided: 
Areas of Concern/Risks
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: 

(Pearlman, 2003, p. 29) The TABS is a revision of the Traumatic Stress Institute Beliefs Scale, Revision L. The primary difference is that many items were worded to make them easier to read in order to develop a form that could eventually be used with "youngsters." In addition 4 new items were added and some items with low item-scale correlations were replaced with items that were more related to the given subscale.


Clinical Populations
Age Groups
Notes on Psychometric Norms: 

The measure has been normed with adults aged 17 and older and adolescents aged 9-18. Adolescent norms are derived from a sample of 1,242 students, aged 9-18. The normative group is described under “Population Used to Develop Measure” and in the manual, appendix table, p. 41.

Clinical Cutoffs Description: 

While no formal cutoffs are specified, T-scores >60T are considered to be high scores indicative of relative disruption in a given area.

Test-Retest-# days: 12Acceptablepearson r0.60.79
Internal ConsistencyAcceptablealpha0.670.96
References for Reliability: 

Pearlman (2003): TABS Total Score: t Test-retest reliability = .75 Internal consistency = .96 Subscales: test-retest reliability (median = .72, range = .60 to .79) internal consistency (median = .79, range = .67 to .87)

References for Content Validity: 

Pearlman (2003, p. 29): 100 items were collected from statements made by trauma survivor clients that were reflective of the six areas originally identified by Constructivist Self-Development Theory (Safety, Trust, Independence, Power, Intimacy, and Self-Esteem). Expert reviewers then assigned items to one of the six areas, and items were eliminated if the assigned category was not the same for all experts. This process left a 76-item scale, called the McPearl Belief Scale. Through subsequent research, the measure was refined. New items were generated from client statements to improve reliability of some subscales, and items that reduced internal consistency were eliminated. The concept of power was reconceptualized as control. Independence was conceived of as counterdependence and items from that subscale were subsumed into the Trust and Control subscales.

Construct Validity: 
Validity TypeNot knownNot foundNonclincal SamplesClinical SamplesDiverse Samples
Sensitive to ChangeYes
Intervention EffectsYes
Longitudinal/Maturation EffectsYes
Sensitive to Theoretically Distinct GroupsYes
Factorial ValidityYes
References for Construct Validity: 

1. Stalker, Palmer, Wright, & Gebotys (2005) report treatment effects using an earlier version of this scale (Traumatic Stress Institute Beliefs Scale). 2. Pearlman (2003, p. 36-38): Factor analysis with a nonclinical college sample: while not all items loaded on the scales as would be expected, the analysis provides some support for the theoretical model on which the TABS is based. 3. Varra, Pearlman, Allen, & Brock (manuscript in preparation) have conducted a factor analysis of the TABS. They found three factors (Self, Safety, and Other), providing an alternative way of interpreting scores. (See manual, pp. 36, 39. This research was presented at the annual meeting of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies.) 4. Outpatients with a trauma history have higher TABS score than do outpatients in general, and those with a child abuse history have even higher TABS scores. 5. Therapists’ scores on the earlier version of the TABS were moderately correlated with scores on the Maslach Burnout Inventory, Third Edition, suggesting that they measure related but different constructs (McLean, Wade, & Encel, 2003). Correlations with the Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI) provide support for convergent and discriminant validity of subscales.

Criterion Validity: 
Not KnownNot FoundNonclinical SamplesClinical SamplesDiverse Samples
Predictive Validity:Yes
Postdictive Validity: Yes
References for Criterion Validity: 

Pearlman (2003, p. 40): TABS scores for outpatients with a history of trauma are higher than for outpatients in general.

Overall Psychometric Limitations: 

1. Much of the psychometric research was conducted using the earlier version of the measure: Revision L of the Traumatic Stress Institute Belief Scale. Although both versions correlate highly, new items were added, and more psychometric research is needed with the newest version of the TABS. 2. The psychometrics have not been fully explored for culturally or clinically diverse populations. The author conducted analyses looking at ethnic/racial differences on mean scale scores. African Americans scored significantly higher on Other-Safety, Other-Trust, and Other-Esteem. On average, Asian Americans scored significantly higher than the expected 50T. Latinos scored significantly lower on average on Other-Intimacy. While these results were hypothesized to result from sampling artifacts due to the small sample size, given that the sample included 113 African Americans, 59 Asian Americans, and 51 Latinos, it may also be reflective of real cultural differences. These findings suggest, as the author notes, that caution is needed when interpreting the results for different cultural groups. 3. Numerous studies have been conducted using the TABS to measure the effects of vicarious traumatization with clinicians and have found evidence of validity of the measure with this population. Clinicians working with greater number of trauma victims have higher TABS ratings (Schauben & Frazier, 1995, as cited in Pearlman, 2003). Clinicians’ TABS scores (using the TSI Belief Scale -- the original version of the TABS) are related to their own trauma history, with those with trauma histories showing greater disruption on TABS scales, and less experienced therapists with trauma histories showing the most difficulty (Pearlman & Mac Ian, 1995).


Translation Quality: 

Population Information

Population Used for Measure Development: 

The measure was developed using two samples: Test development data are drawn from 810 clinical respondents, with an average age of 35.5 (SD=12.1). Normative data were gathered on a heterogeneous sample of 1,743 individuals from nonclinical research groups aged 17-78. Young, Caucasian women are overrepresented, and older individuals, men, and minorities are underrepresented. The ethnic/racial composition was 49% Caucasian, 38% unspecified race/ethnicity, 6% African American, 3% Latino, 3% Asian, and 1% Native American (Pearlman, 2003, p. 30).

Populations with which Measure Has Demonstrated Reliability and Validity: 
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. Lower socio-economic statusYes
2. College studentsYes
3. Trauma survivorsYes

Pros & Cons/References


1. Measure is theoretically based and designed to assess key domains that are hypothesized to be affected by trauma exposure. 2. One article suggests that measure may be useful in assessing treatment effects. 3. Measure focuses on identifying disruptions in cognitions related to relational difficulties. Given the link between relational difficulties and trauma exposure, a measure of this type may be very useful for clinical and research purposes. 4. Measure may be a useful way for measuring one aspect of vicarious traumatization in clinicians.


1. Difference in mean scores for different ethnic groups suggest caution is needed when interpreting results for those from different cultural backgrounds. While this is a limitation, it should be noted that most measures have not been examined in depth for differences of this type and may also be subject to the same limitation. 2. While there is evidence for the validity of using the measure to assess vicarious traumatization with clinicians, there is no evidence of its reliability with this population. 3. The scale appears to have been more widely used to measure vicarious traumatization than direct traumatization. More research is needed looking at its utility in assessing individuals who have directly experienced trauma.


The reference for the manual is: Pearlman, L.A. (2003). Trauma and Attachment Belief Scale. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services. A PsychInfo literature search (6/05) for the words "Trauma and Attachment Belief Scale" or TABS” anywhere revealed that the measure has been referenced in 1 peer-reviewed journal. Note: A similar search for the "Traumatic Stress Institute Belief Scale," the earlier version of this measure, identified 9 peer-reviewed articles. The author also provided 3 additional references. The 13 articles are listed below. 1. Adams, K.B., Holly, C.M., Harrington, D. (2001). The Traumatic Stress Institute Belief Scale as a measure of vicarious trauma in a national sample of clinical social workers. Families in Society, 82(4), 363-371. 2. Brady, J.L., Guy, J.D., Poelstra, P.L., & Brokaw, B.F. (1999). Vicarious traumatization, spirituality, and the treatment of sexual abuse survivors: A national survey of women psychotherapists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 30(4), 386-393. 3. Dutton, M.A., Burghardt, K.J., Perrin, S.G., Chrestman, K.R., & Halle, P.M. (1994). Battered women's cognitive schemata. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7(2), 237-255. 4. Goodman, L.A., & Dutton, M.A. (1996). The relationship between victimization and cognitive schemata among episodically homeless, seriously mentally ill women. Violence and Victims, 11(2), 159-174. 5. Jenkins, S.R. (2002). Secondary traumatic stress and vicarious traumatization: A validational study. Journal of Traumatic Stress 15(5), 423-432. 6. Kadambi, M., & Truscott, D. (2004). Vicarious trauma among therapists working with sexual violence, cancer, and general practice. Canadian Journal of Counseling, 38(4), 260-276. 7. McLean, S., Wade, T.D., & Encel, J.S. (2003). The contribution of therapist beliefs to psychological distress in therapists: An investigation of vicarious traumatization, burnout and symptoms of avoidance and intrusion. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, Volume 31(04), October 2003, pp 417-428. 8. Pearlman, L.A., & Mac Ian, P.S. (1995). Vicarous traumatization: An empirical study of the effects of trauma work on trauma therapists. Professional Psychology Research and Practice, 26(6), 558-565. 9. Ponce, A.N., Williams, M.K., & Allen, G.J. (2004). Experience of maltreatment as a child and acceptance of violence in adult intimate relationships: Mediating effects of distortions in cognitive schemas. Violence and Victims, 19(1), 97-1008. 10. Savaya, R., & Cohen, O. (2003). Divorce among “unmarried” Muslim Arabs in Israel: Women’s reasons for the dissolution of unactualized marriages. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 40(1-2), 93-109. 11. Schauben, L., & Frazier, P.A. (1995). Vicarious trauma: The effects on female counselors of working with sexual abuse survivors. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19, 49-64. 12. Stalker, C.A., Palmer, S.E., Wright, D.C., & Gebotys, R. (2005). Specialized inpatient trauma treatment for adults abused as children: A follow-up study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162 (3), 552-559. 13. Williams, M.B. (1991). Verbalizing silent screams: The use of poetry to identify the belief systems of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Journal of Poetry Therapy, 5(1), 5-20. REFERENCES FOR THEORY BEHIND MEASURE 1. McCann, I.L., & Pearlman, L.A. (1990). Vicarious traumatization: A framework for understanding the psychological effects of working with victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3(1), 131-149. 2. Pearlman, L.A., & Saakvitne, K.W. (1995). Trauma and the Therapist: Countertransference and vicarious traumatization in psychotherapy with incest survivors. New York: Norton.

Developer of Review: 
Chandra Ghosh Ippen, Ph.D., Madhur Kulkarni, M.S.
Editor of Review: 
Chandra Ghosh Ippen, Ph.D.
Last Updated: 
Thursday, March 13, 2014