The Internal Representations of Children and Adolescents in Care

  • Research Project Team

    Research project team

    • Dr Saul Hillman

    Collaborators

    • Five Rivers Child Care
    • Bournemouth Local Authority

    Contact

    saul.hillman@annafreud.org

     

  • Background

    The original study had two strands, both of which set out to explore internal and attachment representations in children and adolescents in care.

    First Study

    Assessments are being carried out with over 30 younger children (ages 4 - 9) in foster care. These children have been administered the Story Stem Assessment Profile, a semi projective measure of internal and attachment representations, alongside a couple of other tasks. Foster carers have been administered a Parent Development Interview adaptation alongside some established questionnaires. In order to track change in this population, the same assessments are being repeated at 12-monthly intervals in order to track change.

    Second Study

    The same design is being used on 30 to 40 younger adolescents (aged 14 to 18) in residential care, who are being assessed using an adolescent adapted version of the story stems, the Adolescent Story Stem Profile (ASSP), an online and video-based tool, developed by Saul Hillman, which focuses on mentalization and attachment. As with the study for younger children, the measures will be repeated at 12-montly intervals.

     

  • Aims

    • To understand more about attachment and internal representations in children in foster care, and how this may change over time within a new foster family;
    • To explore the link between carers’ mentalizing capacity and the children’s internal representations;
    • To explore the prevalence and manifestation of dissociative behaviours in this population;
    • Within the adolescent study, to explore the usefulness of a new video-based measure of the story stems, in order to capture information about their internal world.
  • Methodology

    First Study

    Assessments are being carried out with over 30 younger children (ages 4 - 9) in foster care. These children have been administered the Story Stem Assessment Profile, a semi projective measure of internal and attachment representations, alongside a couple of other tasks. Foster carers have been administered a Parent Development Interview adaptation alongside some established questionnaires. In order to track change in this population, the same assessments are being repeated at 12-monthly intervals in order to track change.

    Second Study

    The same design is being used on 30 to 40 younger adolescents (aged 14 to 18) in residential care, who are being assessed using an adolescent adapted version of the story stems, the Adolescent Story Stem Profile (ASSP), an online and video-based tool, developed by Saul Hillman, which focuses on mentalization and attachment. As with the study for younger children, the measures will be repeated at 12-montly intervals.

    Both studies had a strong emphasis on feeding back to the participants based on the results from their assessment. In the case of the first study, this would be a way of helping foster carers understand more about their child’s strengths and difficulties.