Faculty Publications


Preschoolers’ characterizations of multiple family relationships during family doll play.

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

James P. McHale

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued

January 1999

Date Available

March 2012


Investigated 4-year-OMS' depictions of family relationships during a semistructured doll play task. Examined developmental and family correlates of these depictions, and their relative stability over a I-month period. Forty-nine children related stories about happy, sad, mad, and worried families using dolls reflecting their own family configuration. For each story, coders recorded (a) proportion of total story time devoted to each family dyad and (b) number of conflictive, aggressive, and affectionate acts per dyad. Children divided their focus during stories evenly between father-child, mother-child, and father-mother relationships with child-sibling interactions occurring regularly among participants with siblings. Depictions of affection and aggression among family figures were relatively commonplace, related to mothers' reports of family climate, and stable across a 1-month period. Results substantiated preschoolers' awareness and discrimination of intrafamily relationship dynamics and provided some guidelines and cautions to practitioners who employ doll family assessments in their clinical work.


Abstract only. Full-text article is available only through licensed access provided by the publisher. Published in Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 28(2), 256-268. http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15374424jccp2802_12 Members of the USF System may access the full-text of the article through the authenticated link provided.




L. Erlbaum Associates