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Child Attachment &
Play Assessment

Forensic and family assessments

The CAPA can be used as a stand alone procedure but it meshes very neatly with other family and individual attachment assessments. Particularly useful combinations are the CAPA with the Infant CARE-Index (Crittenden 1992) for parents/carers of babies and the Marschak MIM (Marschak 1960) for families with children of all ages. When using the MIM or CARE-Index we recommend both parents/carers are asked to take part. This gives a very informative picture of the family system as well as providing the basis for video feedback.

The CAPA is also very useful in formulating intervention plans for adopted children. Ideally a CAPA should be conducted before the child is placed and shown to prospective adoptive parents as part of the placement preparation to help understand the child’s needs and the impact these may have on the adoptive family.

Forensic model of assessment

Narrative story stems should not be used to find out whether a child has been maltreated or neglected. They can be used to identify children at risk of further psycho-social problems, in particular those with complex trauma, and to inform intervention plans that will help children and their families.

We use a forensic model of assessment as follows (Main, Hesse & Hesse, 2011; Crittenden, Farnfield, Landini & Grey, 2013):

  • The assessment procedures used should have been demonstrated to be both valid and reliable.
  • The procedures must be administered by a professional with adequate training to ensure the process gives codable results.
  • Coding should be done blind by coders certified reliable in the particular procedure. This means that the coder knows nothing about the case other than the ages of the people involved. This reduces the inevitable bias which occurs once a professional knows the history of the case and meets the family.
  • It also means that if there is a disagreement regarding the coding a second opinion can be sought without necessitating a repeat procedure.
  • Once the coder has assigned an attachment classification to the procedure it can be discussed with the referrer.

Crittenden, P.M. (1992). Children's strategies for coping with adverse home environments. International Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, 16, 329-343.

Crittenden, P. M., Farnfield, S., Landini, A., & Grey, B. (2013). Assessing attachment for family court decision-making: A forensic protocol for empirically-based evidence regarding attachment. Journal of Forensic Practice, 15(4).

Main, M., Hesse, E. & Hesse, S. (2011) ‘Attachment theory and research: Overview with suggested applications to child custody,’ Family Court Review, 49, 3, Special issue: Special issue on attachment, separation, and divorce: Forging coherent understandings for family law. pp. 426-463

Marschak, M. (1960) ‘A method for evaluating child-parent interactions under controlled conditions’. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 97, 3-22.