The Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL-5) is a 20 item self-report measure that assesses the DSM-5 symptoms of PTSD in adults (18+ years). The PCL-5 has a variety of purposes including:
Monitoring symptom change before and after treatment
Screening individuals for PTSD
Making a provisional diagnosis of PTSD
Each item is scored on a 5 point Likert scale (0 = not at all; 4 = extremely), and the form takes about 5-10 minutes to complete. The PCL-5 is a relatively recent revision of the PTSD checklist (PCL), one of the most widely used self-report measures of PTSD.
Although there is only one version of the symptom list for PCL-5, there are three formats of the checklist available. The first version does not assess Criterion A (refer to DSM-5 on PTSD). This method is appropriate when trauma exposure is measured by some other tool. The second version defines Criterion A, provides examples of stressful events, and asks individuals to identify their worst event. The third version includes the Life Events Checklist for DSM-5 (LEC-5) and a more detailed assessment of Criterion A. Example items on the PCL-5 include:
Feeling distant or cut off from other people
Being “superalert”, watchful or on guard
There is limited literature available assessing the psychometric properties of the recently revised PTSD checklist. Like its predecessor, the available data suggests that the PCL-5 is psychometrically sound, demonstrating high internal consistency (α = .94), and good test-retest reliability (r = .82). It demonstrates strong convergent validity with other measures of PTSD (rs = .85) and adequate discriminant validity, correlating moderately with constructs like Depression (r = .60), and least strongly with unrelated constructs like Mania (r = .31). Additionally, the test (PCL) has been translated for use with French, Spanish, and Chinese populations.
Use & Availability
The checklist and information regarding the scale is available at http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/assessment/adult-sr/ptsd-checklist.asp . Although the test is freely accessible, interpretation of the PCL-5 should only be undertaken by a clinician. Given the short time required to complete the checklist, and its ability to be used as a pre and post measure following an intervention, the checklist is popular in both clinical and research settings.
Ashbaugh, A. R., Houle-Johnson, S., Herbert, C., El-Hage, W., & Brunet, A. (2016). Psychometric Validation of the English and French Versions of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5). PLOS ONE, 11(10), e0161645. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161645
Blevins, C., Weathers, F., Davis, M., Witte, T., & Domino, J. (2015). The Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM‐5 (PCL‐5): Development and Initial Psychometric Evaluation. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 28(6), 489-498. doi:10.1002/jts.22059
PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) – PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (2016). Retrieved 8 March 2017, from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/assessment/adult-sr/ptsd-checklist.asp
Weathers, F.W., Litz, B.T., Keane, T.M., Palmieri, P.A., Marx, B.P., & Schnurr, P.P. (2013). The PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5). Scale available from the National Center for PTSD at www.ptsd.va.gov.
Wortmann, J. H., Jordan, A. H., Weathers, F. W., Resick, P. A., Dondanville, K. A., Hall-Clark, B., … Litz, B. T. (2016). Psychometric analysis of the PTSD Checklist-5 (PCL-5) among treatment-seeking military service members. Psychological Assessment, 28(11), 1392–1403. doi:10.1037/pas0000260