Parenting Self-Efficacy Scale

Parenting Self-Efficacy Scale

COLLEEN DIIORIO,Emory University

The purpose of the Parenting Self-Efficacy Scale (PSES) is to measure parents’ confidence in their ability to talk to their children about sexuality issues.


The development of the PSES was based on the concept of self-efficacy (SE), a central construct of social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1997). Bandura defined self-efficacy as the belief in personal capability to organize and execute behaviors. People who have strong beliefs in their abilities are more likely to perform behaviors and more likely to be successful. Applied to the situation of parent-child sexual communication, this means that parents who are confident that they can talk to their children about sexuality issues are more likely to do so.

Bandura (1997) noted that self-efficacy is specific to each behavior. Thus, self-efficacy scales based on his conceptualization must be behavior-specific. For the purpose of the development of the PSES, self-efficacy was defined as parents’ overall belief in their capacity to talk with their children and adolescents about specific sex-related topics. Based on a literature review, three aspects of sex-based discussions were identified: (a) physiological processes (e.g., menstruation), (b) practical issues (e.g., where to get condoms), and (c) safer-sex messages (e.g., should use condoms if he/she decides to have sex). Sixteen items to measure self-efficacy related to these three aspects were developed based on a literature review of sexuality discussions and on focus groups conducted with mothers of adolescents (DiIorio et al., 2001). Content and measurement specialists reviewed the wording of each item and the consistency of the idea presented in each item with the concept of SE as defined by Bandura. Based on their reviews, all 16 items were retained for the final version with some minor changes in wording.

To assess the underlying dimensions of the PSES, an exploratory maximum likelihood common factor analysis with oblique rotation was conducted. The initial analysis revealed three factors with eigenvalues greater than 1.0 and explaining 51% of the variance. Only one item loaded on Factor 3. Thus, a second analysis was conducted requesting two factors. The resulting two factors provided a better interpretation of the data and together accounted for 44% of the variance. The first factor was composed of 10 items representing all three pre-specified aspects of sex-based discussions—physiological events, practical issues, and safer-sex messages and was labeled Basic Information. The second factor was named Relationship-Based Information, because it was composed of six items addressing relation- ship issues such as how to encourage a partner to wait, how to tell a partner no, and how to have fun without sex. Because the Relationship-Based Information factor had a slightly less than adequate reliability coefficient (.67), one new item was written to further define the factor; thus the current PSES has 17 items.

Response Mode and Timing

Each item is worded positively and rated on a 7-point scale anchored with the terms Not Sure at all (1) and Completely Sure (7). The midpoint of the scale is defined as Moderately Sure. Each item begins with the stem “I can always explain to [my child]. ” In an interview situation or when using computer-assisted interviewing, the name of the child can be substituted by the interviewer/computer for [my child]. The PSES takes about 5–10 minutes to complete. The items do not usually require explanation.


All 17 items are positively worded. Total scores are found by summing responses to individual items. Total possible scores range from 17 to 119 with higher scores correspond- ing to a higher degree of self-efficacy to discuss sex-related issues with adolescents.


The original 16-item PSES was assessed for reliability using scale responses from a sample of 491 mothers of 11- to 14-year-old adolescents (DiIorio et al., 2001). Cronbach’s alpha for the total PSES was .85, indicating a moderately high level of internal consistency among scale items. The mean inter-item correlation was .28, with item-to-total correlations ranging from .24 to .61. Means of individual items ranged from 4.46 to 6.76 with standard deviations ranging from .78 to 2.25. The Cronbach’s alphas for two subscales (Basic Information and Relationship-Based Information) were .84 and .67 and indicated low to moderate levels of internal consistency.

The 16-item POES was used in a study with mothers of 6- to 12-year-old children (Pluhar, DiIorio, & McCarty, 2008). Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for responses from the 277 father participants was .94. The 17-item PSES was used in a randomized controlled study of an HIV prevention intervention for fathers and their adolescent boys. Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for responses from the 277 father participants was .85 (DiIorio, McCarty, & Denzmore, 2006).


The 16-item PSES was assessed for validity using the same sample of 491 mothers as used for initial reliability assessment (DiIorio et al., 2001). Construct validity was assessed by examining the association of the total PSES scores with the theoretically relevant variables of sex-based communication, general communication, parenting, and self-esteem. All correlations between the PSES and these scales were significant and in the predicted directions. Further analysis revealed that mothers of daughters reported higher levels of parenting SE than did mothers of sons, as was expected based on the literature. In a descriptive study of correlates of sexuality communication, the PSES was significantly and positively correlated with sexuality discussions, meaning that mothers who had more positive SE were more confident in talking with their children about sexuality issues (Pluhar et al., 2008).

Other Information

The format of the scale can be modified to use with com- puter-assisted interview (CAI) programs or face-to-face interviews. If used with CAI programs, the term [my child] can be linked with the child’s first name and appear in each item as it is presented on the screen. For paper versions, the stem of each item (I can always explain to [my child]) can be placed at the top of the list of items and deleted from each of the statements.

Address correspondence to Colleen DiIorio, Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, 1518 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30322; e-mail: [email protected]

Parenting Self-Efficacy Scale

Read each statement about talking to your child about sexuality issues. Then chose a number on the scale from 1 (Not Sure at all) to 7 (Completely Sure) to say how sure you are about your ability to talk about each topic with [my child] as he/she grows up. Remember, 1 means Not Sure at all, 4 means Moderately Sure, and 7 means Completely Sure. You can also answer with the numbers in between. For example, a 5 or 6 would mean somewhere between Moderately Sure and Completely Sure.

Response Options:

1 Not Sure at all 2 34 ------Moderately Sure 567 -----------Completely Sure


  1. I can always explain to [my child] what is happening when a girl has her period.

  2. I can always explain to [my child] why a person should use a condom when he or she has sex.

  3. I can always explain to [my child] ways to have fun without having sexual intercourse.

  4. I can always explain to [my child] why [my child] should wait until [my child] is older to have sexual intercourse.

  5. I can always explain to [my child] that [my child] should use condoms if [my child] decides to have sexual intercourse.

  6. I can always explain to [my child] why wet dreams occur.

  7. I can always explain to [my child] how to put on a condom.

  8. I can always explain to [my child] how to use birth control pills.

  9. I can always explain to [my child] how birth control pills keep girls from getting pregnant.

  10. I can always explain to [my child] what I think about young teens having sex.

  11. I can always explain to [my child] how to tell someone no if [my child] does not want to have sex.

  12. I can always explain to [my child] how to make a partner wait until [my child] is ready to have sex.

  13. I can always explain to [my child] how someone can get AIDS if they don’t use a condom.

  14. I can always explain to [my child] where to buy or get condoms.

  15. I can always explain to [my child] where to buy or get birth control pills.

  16. I can always explain to [my child] how to tell if a girl or boy really loves [my child].

  17. I can always explain to [my child] how to resist peer pressure to have sex.


Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.

DiIorio, C., Dudley, W. N., Wang, D., Wasserman, J., Eichler, M., Belcher, L., et al. (2001). Measurement of parenting self-efficacy and out- come expectancy related to discussions about sex. Journal of Nursing Measurement, 9, 135–49.

DiIorio, C., McCarty, F., & Denzmore, P. (2006). An exploration of social cognitive theory mediators of father-son communication about sex. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 31, 917–927.

Pluhar, E. I., DiIorio, C. K., & McCarty, F. (2008). Correlates of sexual- ity communication among mothers and 6–12-year-old children. Child Care and Health Development, 34, 283–290.