Other Projective Techniques

Other image-based projective techniques are often used in child abuse assessment. The Rorschach Ink Blot Test, which can be used with children as young as 5, consists of 10 inkblots on white backgrounds (Rorschach, 1921). The child is asked what the ink blot "looks like" and asked to explain the response. Although the responses are believed to reflect personality characteristics, there are serious doubts about the Rorschach's validity, and hence usefulness, as a diagnostic technique (Dawes, 1994; Wakefield & Underwager, 1993; Ziskin, 1995).

Another well-known projective test is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). The TAT consists of 31 ambiguous pictures depicting a variety of situations or dramatic events and the person is asked to tell a story about the characters (Murray, 1943). Although scoring systems have been developed for analyzing the responses, none have received widespread acceptance. Practitioners are likely to use different systems, idiosyncratic systems, or no systems at all; therefore, despite its popularity, the TAT lacks reliability and validity (Ryan, 1985). A similar test intended for children ages 3 to 10 is the Children's Apperception Test (CAT) (Bellak & Bellak, 1980). The CAT, which consists of 10 pictures depicting anthropomorphic animals in a variety of situations, also lacks norms and data on reliability and validity.

The Storytelling Card Game (Gardner, 1988) consists of 24 different scene cards and 15 figurines, ranging in age from infancy to old age. The child is asked to select one or more figurines, place them on the card, and tell a story. This technique is not suggestive in terms of sexual abuse and may be used as a rapport builder or interview aid. There are no data on its reliability or validity and it cannot be considered a psychological test.

The Projective Story Telling Cards (Caruso, 1990) consist of a series of cards with drawings on them depicting a wide variety of situations. There are no standard instructions for administration and the evaluator is instructed to select cares that represent particular concerns. The manual gives the example of choosing cards that may represent circumstances of sexual abuse when evaluating a child where child protection believes the child may have been abused by a live-in boyfriend.

Many of the cards are relatively neutral or ambiguous, and may serve the same function as does a carefully-chosen book. But other cards are highly suggestive. Some depict adults and children in bed wearing only underwear with cameras prominently displayed. One depicts a young child with his mouth open standing a few inches in front of the open fly of an adult male. Several show graphic satanic ritual abuse scenes, including one in a graveyard with robed adults standing around a fire, holding a baby with its head cut off. Although the publisher claims that these cards represent "a relevant, meaningful, and useful tool" for assessment, there are no data concerning reliability and validity.

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