Pediatric Symptom Checklist-17 (PSC-17)

Assessment Rating:
A – Psychometrics Well-Demonstrated
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Michael Jellinek, MD and J. Michael Murphy, EdD

Description / Purpose:

The PSC-17 is used to screen for childhood emotional and behavioral problems including those of attention, externalizing, and internalizing.

The Pediatric Symptom Checklist is a 17 item screening questionnaire listing a broad range of children's emotional and behavioral problems that reflects parents' impressions of their child's psychosocial functioning. The screen is intended to facilitate the recognition of emotional and behavioral problems so that appropriate interventions can be initiated as early as possible.

Target Population: Children between the ages of 4 -18 years

Time to Administer: Approximately 3 minutes

Completed By: Parents

Modalities Available: Paper and pencil

Scoring Information: Scoring information is available from Massachusetts General Hospital.

Languages Available: Chinese, English, Spanish

Training Requirements for Intended Users: None.

Availability: The PSC-17 may be obtained free from Massachusetts General Hospital.

Contact Information

Company: Massachusetts General Hospital
Name: Dr. Michael Jellinek
Phone: (617) 726-2711
Fax: (617) 726-3155
Company: Massachusetts General Hospital
Name: J. Michael Murphy, EdD
Phone: (617) 724-3163
Fax: (617) 726-9219

Summary of Relevant Psychometric Research

This tool has received the Measurement Tools Rating of "A – Psychometrics Well-Demonstrated" based on the published, peer-reviewed research available. The tool must have 2 or more published, peer-reviewed studies that have established the measure’s psychometrics (e.g., reliability and validity, sensitivity and specificity, etc.). Please see the Measurement Tools Rating Scale for more information.

Show relevant research...

Gardner, W., Lucas, A., Kolko, D. J., & Campo, J. V. (2007). Comparison of the PSC-17 and alternative mental health screens in an at-risk primary care sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46(5), 611-618.


Participants — 269 children and adolescents 8 to 15 years, obtained through primary care physicians in Pennsylvania.

Race/Ethnicity — Not Specified


Parents completed the PSC-17 during an office visit. Based on scores, some children were classified as "at-risk". Parents also completed the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and children completed the Children's Depression Inventory during a psychiatric interview. The interview protocol also used the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children-Present and Lifetime Versions (K-SADS-PL). Results indicated that the PSC-17 performed as well as other screening instruments in identifying ADHD, externalizing disorders and depression, but was less sensitive in identifying anxiety.

Kostanecka, A., Power, T., Clarke, A., Watkins, M., Hausman, C., & Blum, N. J. (2008). Behavioral health screening in urban primary care settings: Construct validity of the PSC-17. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 29(2), 124-128.


Participants — 331 families with children between 4 and 12 years of age obtained through a primary care practice serving a low-income population.

Race/Ethnicity — 88% African American, 7% biracial, 5% other.


The analysis of this data supports a hypothesis that there is a 3-factor structure for the scale. The items clustered into internalizing, externalizing and attention-related subscales. However, some items on the attention and externalizing scales did not conform exclusively to those scales, so the authors recommend caution in interpreting those subscales.

Blucker, R. T., Jackson, D., Gillaspy, J. A., Hale, J., Wolraich, M., & Gillaspy, S. R. (2014). Pediatric behavioral health screening in primary care a preliminary analysis of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist-17 with functional impairment items. Clinical Pediatrics, 53(5), 449-455.


Participants — 983 children and adolescents, ages 6 to 16 years.

Race/Ethnicity — Not Specified


The focus of this study is to determine if functional impairment items provide additional useful information beyond reporting of symptoms when reported by the PSC-17. Data were obtained from a systematic chart review for children 6 to 16 years old. Descriptive analyses and a confirmatory factor analysis were used to evaluate the clinical performance and utility of the PBHS. Results indicate a positive screen was endorsed for 26.7% of the sample, of whom 68% also experienced functional impairment. Clinicians appropriately administered the screen 73.5% of the time. To demonstrate validity of scores using the PSC-17 with a particular sample, psychometric testing was performed. CFA yielded good fit of the original 3-factor model based on multiple fit indices and was shown to be more appropriate than a 1-factor model (total PSC-17 items).

Studts, C. R., & van Zyl, M. A. (2013). Identification of developmentally appropriate screening items for disruptive behavior problems in preschoolers. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41(6), 851-863.


Participants — 900 parents of pre-school aged children.

Race/Ethnicity — 55% White, 42% African Americans.


This study evaluated the psychometric properties of 18 externalizing subscale items from two instruments—the PSC-17 and BPI—with preschool-aged children seen in pediatric primary care practices. Participants were predominantly female and biological parents of the target children. In this cross-sectional survey, participants completed a sociodemographic questionnaire and two parent-report behavioral rating scales: the PSC-17 and the BPI. Item response theory analyses provided item parameter estimates and information functions for 18 externalizing subscale items, revealing their quality of measurement along the continuum of disruptive behaviors in preschool-aged children. Of 18 investigated items, 5 items measured only low levels of disruptive behaviors among preschool-aged children. The remaining 13 items measured sub-clinical to clinical levels of disruptive behavior problems; however, 5 of these items offered less information, suggesting unreliable measurement. The remaining 8 items had high discrimination and difficulty parameters, offering considerable

Stoppelbein, L., Greening, L., Moll, G., Jordan, S., & Suozzi, A. (2012). Factor analyses of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist-17 with African-American and Caucasian pediatric populations. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 37(3), 348-357.


Participants — 723 mothers of youth 6 to 16 years.

Race/Ethnicity — 62% Non-Hispanic Caucasian; 35% Non-Hispanic African-American, 3% Other.


This study validates a three-factor model for the Pediatric Symptom Checklist-17 (PSC-17) and evaluated its diagnostic accuracy with African-American and Caucasian children with and without a chronic illness. Mothers of youth diagnosed with either type I diabetes or sickle cell disease and a non-ill peer group completed a demographic questionnaire, the PSC-17, and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Results indicate confirmatory factor analyses and tests of measurement invariance validated a three-factor structure for the PSC-17 with African-American and Caucasian youth with and without a chronic illness. Receiver operating characteristic curves revealed optimal cut-off scores that are similar to published reports.

Date Reviewed: February 2015 (Originally reviewed in June 2009)