Diagnostic Utility of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Checklist for Identifying Full and Partial PTSD in Active-Duty Military

Assessment. 2015 Jun;22(3):289-97. doi: 10.1177/1073191114548683. Epub 2014 Sep 1.


The aim of this study was to determine optimally efficient cutoff scores on the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL) for identifying full posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and partial PTSD (P-PTSD) in active-duty Marines and Sailors. Participants were 1,016 Marines and Sailors who were administered the PCL and Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) 3 months after returning from Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. PCL cutoffs were tested against three CAPS-based classifications: full PTSD, stringent P-PTSD, and lenient P-PTSD. A PCL score of 39 was found to be optimally efficient for identifying full PTSD. Scores of 38 and 33 were found to be optimally efficient for identifying stringent and lenient P-PTSD, respectively. Findings suggest that the PCL cutoff that is optimally efficient for detecting PTSD in active-duty Marines and Sailors is substantially lower than the score of 50 commonly used by researchers. In addition, findings provide scores useful for identifying P-PTSD in returning service members.

Keywords: CAPS; Marines; PCL; PTSD; Sailors; military; subthreshold.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Checklist / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Gulf War
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Personality Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Risk Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Young Adult