Protective Factors Surveys

What are the Protective Factors Surveys?

The Protective Factors Survey (PFS) and the Protective Factors Survey, 2nd Edition (PFS-2) are designed for use with parents and caregivers participating in family support and child maltreatment prevention services. The PFS and PFS-2 assess multiple protective factors to prevent child abuse and neglect. Both surveys are intended to help agencies and programs better assess changes in family protective factors – a primary focus of prevention work. To view the tools, see the PFS or PFS-2 tabs below.

The survey results are designed to:

1) provide agencies with a snapshot of the families they serve,
2) measure changes in family protective factors, and
3) help identify areas where staff can focus on increasing protective factors for each family.

Why was the original Protective Factors Survey (PFS) revised?

Following several years of implementation by practitioners working in the field of child maltreatment prevention, FRIENDS determined that the instrument could be revised to clarify wording and reflect a broader range of attitudes and behaviors within the subscales, especially in the areas of concrete supports and social supports.

Beginning in 2014, significant research was conducted to revise and improve the existing PFS in alignment with the most current research.

The revisions made on the PFS-2 are intended to capture a broader range of attitudes and behaviors by clarifying and rewording items, minimizing cultural bias, and by collapsing the response categories. In addition to the traditional pre/post version of the PFS-2, a retrospective version is available.

Which version is best for my needs?

The table below can assist agencies in deciding which version of the survey is right for their service delivery needs.

Features

Protective Factors Survey (PFS)

Protective Factors Survey, 2nd Edition (PFS-2)

Items

7-point scale, 20 items

5-point scale, 19 items

Formats

Traditional Pre/Post and Retrospective

Traditional Pre/Post and Retrospective

Languages

English and Spanish (S-PFS)

English

Protective Factors Measured

Social Emotional Support

Concrete Support

Nurturing and Attachment

Family Functioning/Resiliency

Knowledge of Parent & Child Development2

Social Supports

Concrete Supports

Nurturing and Attachment

Family Functioning/Resilience

Caregiver/Practitioner Relationship3

Reliability (Cronbach's coefficient alpha)

Social Emotional Support, α = 0.89

Concrete Support, α = 0.76

Family Functioning/Resiliency, α = 0.89

Nurturing and Attachment, α = 0.81

Social Supports, α = 0.75

Concrete Supports, α = 0.82

Family Functioning/Resilience, α = 0.82

Nurturing and Attachment, α = 0.77

Caregiver/Practitioner Relationship, α = 0.59

User Manuals

PFS User Manual
(English)

S PFS User Manual In English
(English)

S PFS User Manual In Spanish
(Spanish)

PFS 2 User Manual 10.22.18(English)

Database Available

Yes. English and Spanish databases are available and can be downloaded from the PFS Database page.

PFS-2 Data Collection Spreadsheet allows providers to enter survey data and see the calculated group and individual subscale scores

What is the Protective Factors Survey (PFS)?

The PFS is a pre-post evaluation tool for use with caregivers receiving child maltreatment prevention services. It is a self-administered survey that measures protective factors in five areas: family functioning/resiliency, social support, concrete support, nurturing and attachment, and knowledge of parenting/child development. A one-page overview of the tool can be viewed here.

Is the PFS the right tool for you?

As you make decisions about whether the PFS is the right tool for your program, please refer to our PFS Checklist.

If you find that the PFS is not the right fit for your services, you may want to review FRIENDS' annotated compendium of evaluation tools as a resource.

How was the PFS developed?

The PFS is a product of the FRIENDS National Center in collaboration with the University of Kansas Institute for Educational Research and Public Service. It was developed with the advice and assistance from CBCAP grantees, parents, researchers, administrators, workers, and experts specializing in family support, child maltreatment, and psychological measurement. The survey has undergone four national field tests for establishing reliability and validity. To view materials from that testing, see the Field Test Report and Phase 4 Summary documents on the left.

Is the PFS an evidence-based measurement tool?

Yes, the California Clearinghouse on Evidence Based Practices (http://www.cebc4cw.org) has included the PFS as an evidence-based tool in their listings.

How is the PFS used?

The primary purpose of the Protective Factors Survey is to provide feedback to agencies for continuous quality improvement and evaluation purposes. The survey results are designed to help agencies measure changes in protective factors and identify areas where workers can focus on increasing individual family protective factors. A full set of instructions on how to administer the PFS can be found by downloading the PFS User Manual.

What is the Protective Factors Survey, 2nd Edition (PFS-2)?

The PFS-2 is an evaluation tool for use with caregivers receiving child maltreatment prevention services. It is a self-administered pre/post or retrospective survey that measures protective factors in five areas: family functioning and resilience, social supports, concrete supports, nurturing and attachment, and caregiver/practitioner relationship.

Is the PFS-2 the right tool for you?

As you make decisions about whether the PFS-2 is the right tool for your program, please review the Purpose and Use. Additional information to help agencies determine whether to use the retrospective or the pre/post version of the PFS-2 can be found here. If you find that the PFS-2 is not the right fit for your services, you may want to review FRIENDS' annotated compendium of evaluation tools as a resource.

How was the PFS-2 developed?

The PFS-2 is a product of the FRIENDS National Center in collaboration with the University of Kansas Center for Public Partnerships and Research. While the original PFS continues to be a valid and reliable1 instrument that assesses multiple protective factors and can continue to be used, the PFS was revised to better capture families’ growth and change by clarifying and rewording questions. The PFS-2 was developed with the advice and assistance from CBCAP grantees, parents, researchers, administrators, workers, and experts specializing in family support, child maltreatment, and psychological measurement, and has undergone a national field test.

Is the PFS-2 an evidence-based measurement tool?

Based on testing conducted to date, the PFS-2 is psychometrically sound and therefore can be considered evidence-based. The original PFS is listed in the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse (CEBC) as an evidence-based evaluation tool. Documentation for the PFS-2 has been submitted to the CEBC as they review tools for inclusion in their evidence-based registry. Please check back or the CEBC website (http://www.cebc4cw.org) for updates.

For more information, see peer-reviewed articles related to the PFS-2:

Sprague-Jones, J., Counts, J., Rousseau, M., & Firman, C. (2019). The development of the protective factors survey: a self-report measure of protective factors against child maltreatment. Child abuse & neglect, 89, 122-134 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0145213419300286

Sprague-Jones, J., Singh, P., Rousseau, M., Counts, J., & Firman, C. (2020). The Protective Factors Survey: Establishing validity and reliability of a self-report measure of protective factors against child maltreatment. Children and Youth Services Review111, 104868 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190740919310412

How is the PFS-2 used?

The primary purpose of the Protective Factors Survey, 2nd Edition is to provide feedback to agencies for continuous quality improvement and evaluation purposes. The survey results are designed to help agencies measure changes in protective factors and identify areas where workers can focus on increasing individual family protective factors. Click here to learn more about the purpose and use of the PFS-2. A quick-start guide for staff preparing and administering the PFS-2 can be found here, and the full set of instructions on administering and scoring the PFS-2 can be found by downloading the PFS-2 User Manual.

Is there a Spanish version of the PFS-2?

A Spanish adaptation of the original PFS (S-PFS) has been tested and found to have good reliability and validity2. The instrument and its accompanying instructions are available in both English and Spanish. A culturally relevant adaptation of the PFS-2 for Spanish-speaking audiences is in development, but is not yet available.

Protective Factors Survey, 2nd Edition Resources

FRIENDS staff and partners are working on developing appropriate data collection and analysis tools.  At this time, program staff are encouraged to use the PFS-2 Data Collection Spreadsheet to enter data and see calculated group and individual subscale scores. For instructions on scoring the PFS-2 by hand, click here. Find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions about the PFS-2 in the FAQ.


1. Counts, J. M., Buffington, E. S., Chang-Rios, K., Rasmussen, H. N., & Preacher, K. J. (2010). The development and validation of the protective factors survey: A self-report measure of protective factors against child maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(10), 762-772.

2. Conrad-Hiebner, A., Schoemann, A. M., Counts, J. M., & Chang, K. (2015). The development and validation of the Spanish adaptation of the Protective Factors Survey. Children and youth services review, 52, 45-53.

1. Counts, J. M., Buffington, E. S., Chang-Rios, K., Rasmussen, H. N., & Preacher, K. J. (2010). The development and validation of the protective factors survey: A self-report measure of protective factors against child maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(10), 762-772.

2. The items that relate to Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development do not function as a subscale, but are instead a grouping of items. *Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development is not included as a subscale in the PFS-2. While these are known protective factors, these factors were excluded from the PFS-2 because there is reason to believe that respondents’ self-reported level of parenting and child development knowledge is not an accurate reflection of true parenting knowledge, but rather captures parenting confidence or tendency toward self-reflection. We believe that parent knowledge and competence can be reflected in the attitudes and behaviors addressed in the other subscales. For more information, please refer to the PFS-2 FAQ.

3. While the Caregiver/Practitioner Relationship is not often identified as a protective factor, this subscale can help service providers better assess their ability to effectively engage with caregivers, and support improved service delivery.