The Parent-Child Relationship Inventory (PCRI) is a 78-item self-report instrument designed to measure mothers’ and fathers’ perceptions of their relationship with an individual child and their attitudes about being parents. Responses are made on a 4-point Likert scale, with high scores indicating parenting behaviors that could advantageously contribute to this relationship and low scores suggesting difficulties. Five scales assess interpersonal dimensions of the individual parent-child dyad. These include Satisfaction with Parenting (SAT), Involvement (INV), Communication (COM), Limit Setting (LIM), and Autonomy (AUT).
The Parental Support (SUP) and Role Orientation (ROL) scales measure parental characteristics that may influence interactions with a child. Each of these scales yields a separate score. Evaluation of the validity of parents’ responses is facilitated by the inclusion of a Social Desirability scale (SOC) and 10 correlated items for examining the consistency of their responses in the inventory.
PCRI Description and Development
The PCRI was developed, for individual or group administration, to evaluate the quality of parent-child relationships in both applied and research settings. Construction of the scales combined experts’ ratings, empirical tests, and subjective critiques by parents and professionals to identify items for inclusion in the measure. The final version of the PCRI was based on standardization data collected from a predominately White sample of 668 mothers and 471 fathers whose children were between the ages of 3 and 15. In most cases, responses were collected from both parents in a family regarding their dyadic relationship with the same child. These normative data were used to develop separate tables for the interpretation of mothers’ and fathers’ responses that potentially reflect gender differences in parenting. Raw scores can be transformed to percentiles and T scores.
In the test manual, Anthony Gerard reports alphas (Cronbach’s alpha coefficient) for the seven scales ranging from .71 (SUP) to .87 (LIM). Test-retest reliability after 1 week ranges from .68 (COM) to .93 (LIM) and after 5 months from .44 (AUT) to .71 (SUP and ROL).
Content validity of the PCRI is substantiated by how well the scale items represent parents’ attitudes and values based on parenting theory, comparison with the extant literature, and experts’ ratings of the items. An iterative process resulted in statistical evidence that the PCRI’s scales, and the items included therein, characterize well-established domains of the parent-child relationship. During measure development, construct validity was examined by the assessment of internal consistency and item-scale correlations. Intercorrelations between the scales are attributed to an expected correspondence between particular domains. For example, parents who report that they participate in activities with their children are more likely to respond that they have open and effective communications with their children as well. However, concerns have been raised regarding overlapping constructs that contribute to redundancy among the scales.
Evidence of predictive and criterion-related validity is presented in the PCRI manual. Responses from couples involved in divorce litigation and custody mediation revealed that these parents were more likely to report difficulties in their relationship with their children than did the normative sample. Likewise, adolescent mothers who reported lower satisfaction with their parenting role were more likely to discipline by means of scolding and physical punishment.
Recently, cross-informant convergence was reported for mothers’ and fathers’ independent self-appraisals of family unity with their own responses on the PCRI. However, only the mothers’ self-assessments of family discord corresponded systematically with the PCRI. A similar pattern was found between adolescents’ and mothers’ appraisals of family unity and discord. The lack of correspondence between mothers’ and fathers’ responses, as well as between those of fathers and adolescents, is consistent with the literature regarding differences in the relationships mothers and fathers have with their children. Hence, the PCRI may not accomplish convergent validity for both mothers and fathers.
Future Research on PCRI
Emerging research has corroborated the internal consistency, stability, and validity of the PCRI. Additional research would enhance the measure’s external validity. First, families from diverse backgrounds followed longitudinally would contribute to norms for age-related changes in the parent-child relationship as children mature. These data could also contribute to the examination of whether the lower internal consistency reported for the AUT scale is related to a child’s age and parental adjustments in nurturing age-appropriate independence. Additionally, norms are not available for differing ethnic or cultural groups. Certain parenting behaviors (i.e., autonomy, discipline, communication) may vary between cultural groups in correspondence to family hierarchies and expectations placed on family members. Given the diversity within the United States, alternative family configurations— and an extension of the international use of the PCRI— and representative norms are especially needed for clinical and legal arenas.
Second, research that extends cross-informant convergence is needed to describe the bidirectionality of parent-child relationships and the unique parenting roles of mothers and fathers. The contributing influence includes factors such as the following: (a) Who fulfills the primary caretaking role? (b) What is the frequency of time together? (e) Is there ease of communication? (d) Is there mutual knowledge of each other? (f) Do personal as well as cultural or societal expectations influence parent-child relationships in gender-based ways? What needs to be determined is whether mothers’ and fathers’ self-reports of their dyadic relationships with their children can have convergent validity.
- Coffman, J. K., Guerin, D. W., & Gottfried, A. W. (2006). Reliability and validity of the Parent-Child Relationship Inventory (PCRI): Evidence from a longitudinal cross-informant investigation. Psychological Assessment, 18, 209-214.
- Gerard, A. B. (1994). Parent-Child Relationship Inventory (PCRI): Manual. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.
- Gottfried, A. W., Bathurst, K., & Gottfried, A. E. (2003). What judicial officers and attorneys should know about psychological testing in child custody matters. Family Law News: Official Publication of the State Bar of California Family Law Section, 26, 9-16.