The Hare Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV) is a 12-item symptom-construct rating scale designed for use by expert observers to assess the lifetime presence and severity of symptoms of psychopathic personality disorder. It was derived from the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, or PCL-R. The PCL:SV is intended for use with adult males and females in a broad range of settings, including correctional, forensic psychiatric, civil psychiatric, and community settings. As its name implies, the PCL:SV also can be used in conjunction with the PCL-R as a screening test in correctional and forensic psychiatric settings, with elevated scores on the PCL:SV triggering administration of a more detailed and comprehensive assessment using the PCL-R. Because of its demonstrated association with future violence, the PCL:SV is most often used as part of a comprehensive violence risk assessment, using structured professional guidelines for assessing violence risk such as the HCR-20, the Sexual Violence Risk-20 (SVR-20), and the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA).
PCL:SV Description and Development
Development of the PCL:SV took place between 1986 and 1994, funded in part by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on Mental Health and the Law, under the direction of John Monahan, School of Law, University of Virginia. Its development culminated in the publication of the test manual by Multi-Health Systems Inc. in 1995. Originally written in English, the test has been translated into Swedish and German.
The PCL:SV was developed to address several recognized limitations of the PCL-R. First, scale length was reduced from 20 items in the PCL-R to 12 items in the PCL:SV by combining PCL-R items with overlapping content. Second, PCL-R items defined in terms of specific socially deviant behavior were excluded from the PCL:SV. Third, PCL-R items reflecting antisocial behavior were redefined in the PCL:SV so that they could be scored without reference to an official criminal record (i.e., formal charges or convictions). Finally, item definitions were shortened from an average of about 200 words in the PCL-R to about 50 words in the PCL:SV.
Each PCL:SV item reflects a specific symptom (i.e., clinical feature) of psychopathy. Part 1 comprises 6 items that reflect an arrogant and deceitful interpersonal style and deficient affective experience. Part 2 comprises 6 items that reflect an impulsive and irresponsible behavioral style and a history of criminal conduct in adolescence and adulthood. Parts 1 and 2 are parallel to Factors 1 and 2 of the PCL-R. Items are scored on the basis of an interview and a review of case history information; in some circumstances, it may be possible to base ratings solely on case history information. Items are rated on a 3-point scale according to the lifetime presence and severity of symptoms (0 = absent,1 = possibly or partially present, and 2 = present); items may also be omitted in the absence of relevant information.
Items are summed (and prorated when necessary) to yield Total scores that can range from 0 to 24, as well as scores on Parts 1 and 2 that range from 0 to 12.
PCL:SV Total and Part scores can be interpreted dimensionally, with respect to data collected from 586 people in correctional, forensic psychiatric, civil psychiatric, and community settings. Total scores also can be interpreted categorically, with scores of 18 and higher diagnostic of psychopathic; when the PCL:SV is used as a screening test, scores of 13 and higher reflect the presence of elevated psychopathic symptomatology, which may trigger a more detailed evaluation using the PCL-R.
PCL:SV Psychometric Evaluation
Evaluations based on classical test theory indicate that PCL:SV Total scores have good structural reliability. Mean corrected item-total correlations average about .55, mean interitem correlations average about .35, and Cronbach’s alphas average about .80. Total scores also have good interrater reliability, with intraclass correlation (ICC) coefficients (based on two independent raters) averaging about .80.
Evaluations based on modern test theory also support the structural reliability of Total scores. Item-characteristic curves based on item response theory (IRT) analyses indicate that all the PCL:SV items are reasonably discriminating with respect to the latent trait and also that they discriminate across a broad range of the latent trait. Test-characteristic curves from IRT analyses indicate that test scores provide reasonable information across a broad range of the latent trait.
Exploratory factor analyses of the PCL:SV appeared to support a two-factor structure parallel to that of the PCL-R. Subsequent confirmatory factor analyses of both the PCL-R and the PCL:SV have found a hierarchical structure, in which three or four specific factors—reflecting interpersonal, affective, and behavior symptoms, plus a possible fourth factor reflecting criminality—underlie a superordinate factor of psychopathy.
The PCL:SV has good concurrent validity with respect to the PCL-R. First, IRT analyses indicate that scores on PCL:SV items are strongly related to the PCL-R items from which they were derived. Second, the correlation between Total scores on the two tests is about .90, controlling for other facets of unreliability; similarly, in IRT analyses, the correlation between latent traits on the two tests is also about .90. Third, supporting its utility as a screening test, high scores on the PCL:SV have excellent sensitivity and good specificity with respect to PCL-R diagnoses of psychopathy.
The PCL:SV has been used in a wide range of research on psychopathy, including etiological and cross-cultural research. Numerous studies have examined its predictive validity, finding that PCL:SV Total scores typically have a moderate effect size with respect to institutional and community violence in various settings.
- Cooke, D. J., Michie, C. E., Hart, S. D., & Hare, R. D. (1999). Evaluating the screening version of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL:SV): An item response theory analysis. Psychological Assessment, 11, 3-13.
- Douglas, K. S., Strand, S., Belfrage, H., Fransson, G., & Levander, S. (2005). Reliability and validity evaluation of the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV) in Swedish correctional and forensic psychiatric samples. Assessment, 12, 145-161.
- Hart, S. D., Cox, D. N., & Hare, R. D. (1995). Manual for the Hare Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV). Toronto, ON, Canada: Multi-Health Systems.