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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2000 Aug;39(8):1017-23.

Gender-specific characteristics of 5-year-olds' play narratives and associations with behavior ratings.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Basel, Switzerland.



To examine the content and structure of children's play narratives in a large sample of 5-year-olds in order to replicate previous findings, explore the role of gender differences, and identify a pattern that can provide useful information about children's behavior.


The MacArthur Story Stem Battery and coding system was used to code content themes and coherence from play narratives of 652 twins in a nonclinical sample. To measure behavior problems, parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist when their children were aged 5 and 7 years; teachers completed the Teacher's Report Form when the children were aged 7 years.


Girls told more coherent narratives with less aggression than boys. Aggressive themes were found to correlate with behavior problems as in previous studies. Upon further examination, this correlation held for girls but not boys. Children who told repeated aggressive/incoherent narratives had more behavior problems than those who did not show this narrative pattern.


The Story Stem methodology is useful for gaining access into the young child's inner world. The gender of the child, content of the story, and coherence of the story all provide useful information in identifying narratives that may indicate more risk for behavior problems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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