Nov 17, 2020  |   2 minute read

Child Trauma | PEDS

Pediatric Emotional Distress Scale (PEDS)

Recommended frequency: Every 4 weeks


The Pediatric Emotional Distress Scale (PEDS) is a 21-item measure that assesses the severity of symptoms that may be exhibited in children (i.e., ages 2-10) after exposure to a distressing or traumatic event. The child’s parent or caregiver rates symptom frequency on a 4-point Likert scale based on their observations over the past month. 17 of the items assess general behaviours, whereas four items inquire about trauma-specific symptoms. Each item corresponds to one of the following subscales: Anxious/Withdrawn (e.g. “Seems sad and withdrawn”), Fearful (e.g. “Refuses to sleep alone”), and Acting Out (e.g. “Has temper tantrums”). It is NOT intended to be used as a diagnostic tool for PTSD and does not assess all PTSD symptoms.

Psychometric Properties

The PEDS has acceptable internal consistency amongst its subscales (αs = .72 – .78) and good internal consistency (α = .85) for the total scale. However, it does demonstrate poor test-retest reliability over a period of 6-8 weeks (rs = .55-.61).



The Scale

Please select the answer for each question to describe how often your child has shown each behaviour in the LAST MONTH.



Symptom severity is determined by assigning 1-4 to the response categories of “almost never”, “sometimes”, “often”, and “very often”, respectively. The total score is calculated by adding these values. Scores range from 17-84. Higher scores indicate greater symptom severity.

A cutoff score of 28 or higher indicates symptom severity of clinical significance and a greater likelihood of childhood trauma. Developers of the scale caution that a different cutoff may be warranted based on maternal education, as evidenced by previous research.

There are three subscales within the measure:

  • Anxious/Withdrawn (items 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, and 16). Clinical cut-off is 9.5.
  • Fearful (items 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10). Clinical cut-off is 8.5.
  • Acting Out (items 1, 2, 11, 12, 13, and 17). Clinical cut-off is 13.5.

Items 18 to 21 relate to a specific trauma or stressor the child has experienced. These questions will only be answered if a child has experienced a major trauma or stress in the past year.


Copyright Information

Saylor, C.F, Swenson, C. C., Reynolds, S.S., & Taylor, M. (1999). The Pediatric Emotional Distress Scale: A brief screening measure for young children exposed to traumatic events. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 28:1, 70-81.


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Computer displaying data points, used to monitor symptoms over time