The PCL-5 is a 20 item self-report measure of the 20 DSM-5 symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Included in the scale are four domains consistent with the four criterion of PTSD in DSM-5:
The PCL-5 can be used to monitor symptom change, to screen for PTSD, or to make a provisional PTSD diagnosis.
PCL-5 validation studies show all four criterion scales demonstrate high internal consistency (Cohen et al., 2015). There was also a high correlation between the two scoring methodologies: symptom severity and diagnostic classification scoring methods (Cohen et al., 2015). In a student validation sample (n = 2490) PTSD prevalence was 1.4% using both methods.
Scores consist of a total symptom severity score (from 0 to 80) and scores for four subscales:
In addition to a raw score being presented, a “mean score” is also computed, which is the subscale score divided by the number of items. These scores range between 0 to 5, where higher scores represent higher severity.
Consistent with the likert scale:
0 = Not at all
1 = A little bit
2 = Moderately
3 = Quite a bit
4 = Extremely
There are two methods for determining a provisional PTSD diagnosis.
If the scale is used to track symptoms over time, a minimum 10 point change represents clinically significant change (as based on the PCL for DSM-IV change scores).
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.
Cohen, J., et al. (2015). Preliminary Evaluation of the Psychometric Properties of the PTSD Checklist for DSM – 5. (Conference Presentation). doi: 10.12140/2.1.4448.5444