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Attachment story completion test
The Expanded Attachment Story Completion Task(ASCT), consisting of ten story stems (story beginnings) drawn from the original ASCT, devised by Bretherton and Ridgeway to elicit young children's attachment representations (see Appendix of Bretherton, Ridgeway and Cassidy, 1990) and four additional stories taken from the MacArthur Story Stem Battery (Bretherton, Oppenheim, Buchsbaum & Emde, 1990). In three of these story stems the protagonist child was faced with a dilemma. In the first, the protagonist child had to choose between obeying mother and helping a sibling (the story was first used by Buchsbaum and Emde, 1990). In the second, the choice was between empathic behavior vis-a-vis the mother or engaging in a pleasurable activity with a friend. In the third the conflict was between solidarity with a friend or a sibling. One story, concerning the protagonist mother's sadness in response to the loss of a close relative, was developed by Carolyn Zahn-Waxler (personal communication, 1990).
The original ASCT was correlated with the quality of the child's attachment to the mother (Bretherton et al, 1990) and with a ratings of maternal sensitivity/insight as assessed in the course of the Parent Attachment (Oppenheim et al. 1997).
During the ASCT the child is presented with small family figures (a bear family consisting of mother, father, two siblings of the same gender as the subject, a grandmother, the family dog and two friends) and appropriate simple props. After acting out and narrating the stem according to the standard protocol, the male interviewer invited the child to "show me and tell me what happens next." The warm-up story was designed to acquaint the participating child with what was expected during the story completion procedure. The ten subsequent stems portrayed accidental mishaps, pain, fear, separation-reunion, loss, authority, cooperation, empathy and competence, intended to activate thoughts and feelings about attachment and authority interactions, as well as moral conflicts. The last story (family activity) was freer in form and was used principally to create a positive ending to the session for those children who found the task difficult. The warm-up and wind-down stories were not coded.
The Expanded ASCT was adapted for children of divorce by presenting the parents as living in two separate houses, symbolized by two small square pieces of felt set up at opposite ends of the child-sized table at which the task was administered. At the beginning of each story stem. In one stem the father was presented as the active parent while the mother remained in her "house." In the remaining stories, the mother was used as the acting parent in the story stem while the father stood on his "house." However, the children were free to introduce the father figure into their story completions if they so wished. Caring, authoritative, punitive and aggressive parental behavior and care-seeking,compliant/disobedient and aggressive child behavior enacted during the stories were coded, as were portrayals of spousal interactions and family reunifications.
Attachment in the Preschool Years: Theory, Research and Intervention: Edited by Mark T. Greenberg, Dante Cicchetti & E. Mark Cummings. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. 1990. Pp. 507.