Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Psychology


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Moira O'Connor


This manuscript describes the development and preliminary validation of a new assessment procedure called the Young School-age Assessment of Attachment (YSAA). The tool has clinical as well as research relevance in that it identifies the attachment strategies of children aged 5-7 years as well as recognising attachment related problems for this age group. The YSAA is a representational procedure that uses line drawings of a child teddy in attachment-related situations. The stimulus cards, probes, and administration procedures were piloted and refined in the initial stages of this study. The children's narratives that were generated from this procedure were examined for discourse markers derived from the Dynamic Maturational model of analysing the Adult Attachment Interview (Crittenden, 1999-2004). Enough markers in five memory systems were generated for reliable classifications to be made. A preliminary validation study of the YSAA in a normal population was conducted with 158 children over two years with two data gathering points. Classifications of the YSAA transcripts generated by the children at age 6 years demonstrated strong concordance with classifications made on the Preschool Assessment of Attachment (PAA) (Crittenden, 1995) classifications at age 5 years. There was significant agreement between the YSAA classifications and the sensitive attonement of mother-child dyads on a task that involves the co-construction of episodes as measured by the Autobiographical Emotional Events Dialogue (AEED) (Koren-Karie, Oppenheim, Haimovich, & Etzion-Carasso, 2003). The potential clinical relevance of the YSAA was encouraging as classifications on the YSAA matched parental identification of major problems. They did not, however, predict children's relationships with their teachers (Pianta, 1991) or child behaviour problems as identified by Achenback CBCL (Acenbach, 1991). The results are discussed in the light of current issues raised in the research literature with regard to the use of representational measures with young school-age children. The limitations of this study are highlighted and discussed, conclusions drawn, and suggestions made for future research directions.