The School-age Assessment of Attachment (SAA) is appropriate for children between 6 years of age and puberty. It fits between the Preschool Assessment of Attachment (PAA) and the Transition to Adulthood Attachment Interview (TAAI). It is a clinical and research tool that offers reliable and valid assessment of children’s attachment, taking into account the developmental implications of children’s behaviour at this stage in their lives. It is intended to provide information on (1) children’s self-protective strategies,(2) dangers that elicit the strategy, and (3) distortions in information proceeding that regulate the child’s behaviour.
The precise information offered by the SAA
is different from a diagnosis. Knowing the strategy will be helpful
for parents and professionals as they consider how best to respond to
children, knowing the stressors can help everyone to prevent problems,
and knowing how information is processed can help mental health
professionals structure beneficial treatment (and avoid inappropriate
interventions). The SAA consists of 7 picture cards that address threats
that school-aged children frequently face or imagine facing. The
interview protocol asks for an imagined story about the child on the
card and then recall of a similar episode in the responding child’s
life. For each story, the child gives the sequence of events (cognition)
and the child’s feelings (affect), the child’s thoughts about
attachment figures’ thoughts and feelings (perspective-taking and theory
of mind), and reasons why the child did what he or she did and ideas
about what they might do in the future (concrete reflective functioning
regarding the self).
Trainees will learn interviewing skills and discourse tools. The techniques for interpreting speech can be useful even if the professional does not formally use the interview itself in practice. For those interested in research applications, the 15-day training is usually sufficient to establish reliability on the major classifications and subclassifications.
The interview is recorded and transcribed. The transcript is then annotated for specific discourse markers in six memory systems; the discourse markers are derived from the Dynamic Maturational method (DMM) for analysing the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI)(Crittenden, 1999a) adapted to fit the speech patterns of school-aged children. Using written guidelines, each SAA interview is assigned to one of the DMM classifications.
The basic training addresses the patterns found in normative and out-patient treatment populations. It involves 15 days of full-time effort coding transcripts. The first teaching block covers the non-risk Ainsworth-based patterns. The second teaching block covers most of the patterns in the dynamic-maturational approach- the compulsive A’s and the obsessive C’s. The third teaching block covers the A/C and AC combinations and some of the modifiers of patterns, e.g., preoccupied and dismissed lack of resolution of trauma and loss, depression, intrusions of forbidden negative affect, expressed somatic symptoms, and reorganisation.
Following the basic course members may take an advanced clinical training that covers very complex patterning, other forms of lack of resolution and disorientation.