PI: Mary Target
While well-established attachment measures have been developed for infancy, early childhood, and adulthood, a “measurement gap” has been identified in middle childhood, where neither behavioral nor representational measures are sufficiently robust. We have developed a new measure—the Child Attachment Interview (CAI)—which seeks to bridge this gap.
The CAI is a semistructured interview, in which children are invited to describe their relationships with their primary caregivers. The coding system is informed by the Adult Attachment Interview and the Strange Situation Procedure, and produces 4 attachment categories along with a continuous measure of attachment security based on ratings of attachment-related dimensions.
The protocol of questions is close in content to the AAI, as the CAI also needs to activate the attachment system to elicit attachment-related information, but the style is considerably different. The interview needed to be consistent enough to reveal structural variations in response and flexible enough to help children with its demands without compromising validity. A further important difference from the AAI is that the CAI focuses on recent attachment-related events and current attachment relationships rather than the memory of relationships in earlier childhood. Owing to younger children’s restricted attentional capacity, the interview needed on average to be about half the length of the AAI.
We reviewed the questions on the Berkeley Autobiographical Interview and the AAI and adapted them for use with 7- to 12-year-olds where possible. In the pilot interviews children often described experiences of conflict with caregivers, and so we introduced new questions about arguments with and between parents. A further important difference from the AAI was the inclusion of a set of questions about the child’s perception of himself/herself as a person at the beginning of the interview, added partly to help the child get used to talking with a stranger about personal matters but also to investigate possible meaningful links between self-descriptions and attachment representations.
The current version of the CAI (see Appendix) comprises 15 questions. The interview opens with a warm-up question eliciting information relating to family composition. This is followed by a series of questions tapping the child’s self-representation, representations of his/her primary caregivers, times of conflict, distress, illness, hurt, separation, and loss.
Throughout the interview, additional probes are used to elicit relevant instances or episodic detail). The interviewer also provides scaffolding to assist the child in telling the story; typically, this means giving nonspecific, interested comments such as, “Is that what usually happens?” “Did you?” “Is there anything else you remember?” “That is a good example; can you tell me more about it?” “Was it after school?” and “Who was there?”
Target,M., Shmueli-Goetz,Y., Fonagy,P. (2002). Attachment representations in school-age children: The early development of the child attachment interview (CAI) Journal of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy 2, 91-106
Target, M., Fonagy, P., & Shmueli-Goetz, Y. (2003). Attachment representations in school-age children: The development of the child attachment interview (CAI). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 29(2), 171-186.
Shmueli-Goetz, Y., Target, M., Fonagy, P. & Datta, A. (2008). The Child Attachment Interview: A psychometric study of reliability and validity. Developmental Psychology, 44(4), 939-56.