Assessing posttraumatic stress in military service members: Improving efficiency and accuracy

Caitlin L. Fissette, Douglas K. Snyder, Christina Balderrama-Durbin, Steve Balsis, Jeffrey Cigrang, G. Wayne Talcott, Jo Lyn Tatum, Monty Baker, Daniel Cassidy, Scott Sonnek, Richard E. Heyman, Amy M.Smith Slep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is assessed across many different populations and assessment contexts. However, measures of PTSD symptomatology often are not tailored to meet the needs and demands of these different populations and settings. In order to develop population- and context-specific measures of PTSD it is useful first to examine the item-level functioning of existing assessment methods. One such assessment measure is the 17-item PTSD Checklist-Military version (PCL-M; Weathers, Litz, Herman, Huska, and Keane, 1993). Although the PCL-M is widely used in both military and veteran health-care settings, it is limited by interpretations based on aggregate scores that ignore variability in item endorsement rates and relatedness to PTSD. Based on item response theory, this study conducted 2-parameter logistic analyses of the PCL-M in a sample of 196 service members returning from a yearlong, high-risk deployment to Iraq. Results confirmed substantial variability across items both in terms of their relatedness to PTSD and their likelihood of endorsement at any given level of PTSD. The test information curve for the full 17-item PCL-M peaked sharply at a value of Θ=0.71, reflecting greatest information at approximately the 76th percentile level of underlying PTSD symptom levels in this sample. Implications of findings are discussed as they relate to identifying more efficient, accurate subsets of items tailored to military service members as well as other specific populations and evaluation contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological assessment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Item response theory (IRT)
  • Military
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Ptsd checklist
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing posttraumatic stress in military service members: Improving efficiency and accuracy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this