Rating Procedures for Improving Identification of Exposure to Potentially Traumatic Events When Using Checklist Measures

Michelle Schoenleber, Melissa E. Milanak, Emily Schuld, Howard Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although interviews provide the best assessment of potentially traumatic events (PTEs), their use is not always feasible in research or clinical settings when time and other resources are scarce. Relying alternatively on checklists to identify PTE histories is problematic, however, as they will overestimate PTE rates. Thus, this study aimed to develop new rating procedures that could be used quickly and easily to enhance the accuracy of PTE assessment when use of interviews is prohibitive. A large (N = 640) college sample completed a PTE checklist and follow-up questions designed to gather details about each endorsed event. The new rating procedures were applied to follow up responses, allowing comparison of participants with PTE histories identified by (1) checklist alone and (2) the new rating procedures. Results indicated that the new rating procedures were efficient and demonstrated adequate-to-good inter-rater reliability for all trauma types. The checklist substantially overestimated the PTE rate in the present sample for all types of trauma. Further, participants with a PTE history based on the rating procedures endorsed greater posttraumatic reexperiencing and avoidance than did those with a PTE history based on the checklist alone. The new rating procedures therefore have the ability to improve PTE assessment, perhaps particularly in research settings, and will enhance the validity of conclusions that can be reached in future studies when interviews cannot be used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1090-1109
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 26 2018


  • Clinical judgment
  • Life Events Checklist
  • PTSD
  • PTSD assessment
  • posttraumatic stress
  • potentially traumatic events
  • prevalence
  • reliability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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