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The Child Attachment and Play Assessment (CAPA) assesses attachment and complex trauma in children aged 3 – 11 years.

This is a doll-play procedure which is filmed and usually takes about 25 minutes to adminster. It uses the established narrative story stem procedure in which children are given the beginning of a story (the stem) and then asked to ‘show and tell me what happens next?’  All the stories pull for attachment issues, e.g. the child burns his/her hand on the stove, there is a loud noise in the night when everyone is asleep, little piggy goes for a walk and gets lost. There are two sets of stories, one for children aged 3 — 6 years using the established story stem batteries and another for 7 – 12 year olds using stories developed for the CAPA. We are also piloting a procedure for adolescents.

The CAPA is designed for use with clinical and maltreated populations and has proved a reliable and non-intrusive method for examining young children’s mental representations of attachment and relationships. It is a particularly good procedure for assessing the impact of developmental trauma.

The CAPA is used by independent practitioners and several local authority social service departments in the UK to assess children in need, for understanding the perspectives of adopted and fostered chidlren, and also for court reports. Because children’s stories involve fantasy as well as reality the procedure should not be used to determine whether a child has been abused or maltreated.