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Child Attachment &
Play Assessment


The CAPA has half a dozen empirical studies either under review or nearing completion and two peer-reviewed publications. Published studies demonstrate: convergent validity with an observational procedure for pre-schoolers (CARE-Index) and an attachment interview for school age children (Farnfield 2015); construct validity regarding attachment insecurity and known risks in the environment such as parent mental health (Farnfield  & Onions, 2022); the CAPA distinguishes between endangered (largely children in foster care) and safe community children (Farnfield 2015), community endangered children from severely maltreated children in residential care (Farnfield & Onions, 2022); a significant association with DSM5 clinical diagnoses of anxiety disorder and of depression (Farnfield  & Onions, 2022). Stability of attachment using the CAPA over a two-year period with a group of highly traumatised institutional children was 70% which compares favourably with other studies (Farnfield, unpublished 2020).

Future publications are expected to demonstrate:

  • correspondence between unresolved trauma on the CAPA and validated trauma scales (Zhang et al, submitted)
  • correspondence of CAPA constructions in case studies with (a) predicted biophysical data (heart rate variability, cortisol) (Hadiprodjo, unpublished, 2018; Zhang in preparation) and (b) cortisol & alpha amylase (Zhang in preparation).

Farnfield, S. (2015). The child attachment and play assessment (CAPA): a new approach to coding narrative stems with children aged 3 to 11 years. International Journal of Play Therapy. 25, 217-229.

Farnfield, S. & Onions, C. (2022): The role of affect regulation in developmental trauma: an empirical study of children in residential care, Journal of Child Psychotherapy, DOI: 10.1080/0075417X.2021.2015421

Farnfield, S. (unpublished, 2020) Report for the Mulberry Bush School: attachment, trauma and play. University of Roehampton/ Mulberry Bush School.

Hadiprodjo, N. (unpublished, 2018)Heartfelt Play: An exploratory case-based analysis of cardiac activity within play therapy dyads and children’s play narratives. PhD Dissertation, University of Roehampton.

Onions, C. (unpublished, 2020) From research to practice at a residential school: The Mulberry Bush. British Educational Research Association Conference.

Zhang, F. & Farnfield, S.  (in preparation) Comparing diagnoses of child PTSD with the assessment of developmental trauma.

Zhang, F., Farnfield, S., Gibson, Leigh E., Grey, B., (submitted).Comparing diagnosis of child PTSD with a doll play assessment of developmental trauma: Exploring child PTSD with the CAPA  Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Zhang, F. (in preparation) The bio-physiology of developmental trauma: cortisol and alpha amylase.