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Parenting Stress Index, Third Edition

Richard R. Abidin, EdD

Identifies parent-child problem areas in parents of children ages 1 month-12 years
Paper and pencil, E-Manual, Download
Age range:
18 years to 60 years
20-30 minutes
Qualification level:
A degree, certificate, or license to practice in a health care profession or occupation, including (but not limited to) the following: medicine, neurology, nursing, occupational therapy and other allied health care professions, physician's assistants, psychiatry, social work; plus appropriate training and experience in the ethical administration, scoring, and interpretation of clinical behavioral assessment instruments. Certain health care providers may be eligible to purchase selected "B" and "C" level instruments within their area of expertise. Specifically, relevant supervised clinical experience using tests (i.e., internship, residency, etc.) in combination with formal coursework ( i.e., Tests and Measurement, Individual Assessment, or equivalent) qualifies a health care provider to purchase certain restricted products. Any PAR Customer already qualified to purchase a "B" or "C" level product, is also qualified to purchase an "S" level product. If you are not already qualified to purchase a "B"or "C" level product from PAR, please download and complete the special Qualification Form for Medical and Allied Health Professionals. (You will need Adobe Acrobat to view.) Close

Use as Early Identification of Parenting and Family Characteristics that Fail to Promote Normal Development


We recommend the newer Parenting Stress Index, Fourth Edition (PSI-4).

The PSI addresses the early identification and assessment needs recognized by the Report of the Surgeon General's Conference on Children's Mental Health (January 2001). It is well-suited for use in primary healthcare and pediatric practices, as well as in other settings and programs that serve at-risk children and families or provide early childhood educational and developmental experiences. The PSI is designed for the early identification of parenting and family characteristics that fail to promote normal development and functioning in children, children with behavioral and emotional problems, and parents who are at risk for dysfunctional parenting. It can be used with parents of children as young as one month.

The PSI was developed on the theory that the total stress a parent experiences is a function of certain salient child characteristics, parent characteristics, and situations that are directly related to the role of being a parent. The PSI identifies dysfunctional parenting and predicts the potential for parental behavior problems and child adjustment difficulties within the family system. Although its primary focus is on the preschool child, the PSI can be used with parents whose children are 12 years of age or younger.

The PSI consists of 120 items and takes less than 30 minutes for the parent to complete. It yields a Total Stress Score, plus scale scores for both Child and Parent Characteristics, which pinpoint sources of stress within the family.

The child characteristics are measured in six subscales: Distractibility/Hyperactivity, Adaptability, Reinforces Parent, Demandingness, Mood, and Acceptability. The parent personality and situational variables component consists of seven subscales: Competence, Isolation, Attachment, Health, Role Restriction, Depression, and Spouse. The PSI is particularly helpful in:

  • Early identification of dysfunctional parent-child systems.
  • Prevention programs aimed at reducing stress.
  • Intervention and treatment planning in high-stress areas.
  • Family functioning and parenting skills.
  • Assessment of child-abuse risk.
  • Forensic evaluation for child custody.

Validated with diverse populations

The PSI has been empirically validated to predict observed parenting behavior and children's current and future behavioral and emotional adjustment, not only in a variety of U.S. populations but in a variety of international populations. The transcultural research has involved populations as diverse as Chinese, Portuguese, French Canadian, Italian, and Korean. These studies demonstrated comparable statistical characteristics to those reported in the PSI Manual, suggesting that the PSI is a robust diagnostic measure that maintains its validity with diverse non-English-speaking cultures. This ability to effectively survive translation and demonstrate its usefulness as a diagnostic tool with non-English-speaking populations suggests that it is likely to maintain its validity with a variety of different U.S. populations.


The Manual has 118 pages of information, including reference group profiles and case illustrations, Hispanic norms, and expanded norms by age. A 5th-grade reading level is required.

The PSI consists of a 120-item test booklet with an optional 19-item Life Stress scale and an all-in-one self-scoring answer sheet/profile form. It yields 17 scores, including seven Child Domain scores, eight Parent Domain scores, and a Total Stress score, plus the optional Life Stress score.

The PSI Short Form is a direct derivative of the full-length test and consists of a 36-item self-scoring questionnaire/profile. It yields a Total Stress score from three scales: Parental Distress, Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction, and Difficult Child.

French Canadian version available! The PSI is also available in French Canadian.