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Dev Psychol. 1999 Mar;35(2):460-5.

Effect of maltreatment on preschoolers' narrative representations of responses to relieve distress and of role reversal.

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  • 1Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, New York 14608, USA.


A total of 80 low-socioeconomic status maltreated preschoolers were contrasted with 27 nonmaltreated preschoolers on their narrative representations. The children completed story stems, taken from the MacArthur Story-Stem Battery (MSSB; I. Bretherton, D. Oppenheim, H. Buchsbaum, R. N. Emde, & the MacArthur Narrative Group, 1990), that introduced stressful family situations. Using the MacArthur narrative coding manual (J. Robinson, L. Mantz-Simmons, J. Macfie, & the MacArthur Narrative Group, 1992), coders rated portrayals of parental and child character responses, as well as participant responses, to relieve children's distress. They also rated role reversal (children caretaking their parents) from the narrative emotion coding manual (S. L. Warren, L. Mantz-Simmons, & R. N. Emde, 1993). Maltreated preschoolers portrayed parents and children as responding less often--yet themselves as stepping into the story more often to relieve children's distress--than did nonmaltreated preschoolers. Abused children (sexually, physically, or both) portrayed the most participant responses, and neglected children (with no abuse) portrayed the fewest child responses. Role reversal was associated with physical abuse.

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