Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Further Psychometric Support for the 10-Item Version of the Perceived Stress Scale

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Further Psychometric Support for the 10-Item Version of the Perceived Stress Scale

Article excerpt

Because of increased stress conditions in college students, updated psychometrics of the Perceived Stress Scale, 10-item version (PSS-10; S. Cohen & G. Williamson, 1988) are necessary. Participants were 281 undergraduates at 3 public universities. An exploratory factor analysis revealed a 2-factor structure measuring Perceived Helplessness and Perceived Self-Efficacy. Normative results, internal consistencies, and construct validity were supported. The current findings reveal that the PSS-10 is a reliable and valid instrument for assessment of perceived stress in college students.


College can be a highly stressful life transition with increased exposure to stressors and subsequent behavioral reactions. Increasing stress reactions among college students has become a widely recognized issue on college campuses (Misra & Castillo, 2004; Sax, 1997). Stressors permeate several facets of college life, including academics, socialization, family relations, independence/autonomy, intimate relationships, and responsibility (Dill & Henley, 1998). Increasing exposure to stressors can result in overtaxed physical and psychological resources leading to an increased probability of physical and psychological impairment (Lazarus & Folkman, 1994). Furthermore, acute and chronic exposure to various stressors (e.g., physical and psychological) can produce deleterious effects, including dysfunction of the hypothalamus-pituitary adrenal axis (Cohen, Kessler, & Underwood Gordon, 1995).

For an event or situation to be considered stressful, it must be perceived as stressful via perceptual processes (Lazarus, 1966; Lazarus & Folkman, 1994). The impact of stressors pivots on (a) the stressor being perceived as threatening or demanding and (b) a lack of appropriate resources to manage the stressor (Lazarus, 1966). Because college students are faced with myriad stressors, accurate measurement of perceived stress has implications for greater understanding of the susceptibility to and the etiology and treatment of pathological disorders. Within a clinical setting, for example, understanding the extent to which various stressors are related to symptom exacerbations may help the clinician and client develop strategies to assist in the management of such events. Stress assessment may also serve as an important predictor for treatment response and may aid in monitoring treatment progress. Finally, stress assessment in community samples of college students may also assist in the development of prevention programs that develop and/or enhance coping skills.

A paucity of multiple-item instruments for assessing general stress limits the ability of clinicians and researchers to accurately measure perceived stress. Some objective measures use life-event scales to create a cumulative stress score, and "these scores are usually based on either the number of events that have occurred within the specified temporal framework or on a sum of event weights that are based on the judges' rating of the difficulty of adjusting to these events" (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983, p. 386). These measures do not take into consideration the personal and contextual factors that influence the various degrees to which a person may view a stressful situation as stressful.

To address this concern, Cohen et al. (1983) developed the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), which was based on Lazarus's theory of stress appraisal (Lazarus, 1966; Lazarus & Folkman, 1994). The PSS is a 14-item self-report instrument designed to measure "the degree to which situations in one's life are appraised as stressful" (Cohen et al., 1983). Initial psychometric data were collected in three samples (two college samples and one community sample). Internal consistency of the items was strong (rs ranging from .84 to .86). Test-retest reliability was .85 in the college sample after 2 days and .55 in the community sample after 6 weeks. …

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