Representations of self and other in the narratives of neglected, physically abused, and sexually abused preschoolers

Sheree L. Toth, Dante Cicchetti, Jenny Macfie, Robert N. Emde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


The MacArthur Story Stem Battery was used to examine maternal and self-representations in neglected, physically abused, sexually abused, and nonmaltreated comparison preschool children. The narratives of maltreated children contained more negative maternal representations and more negative self-representations than did the narratives of nonmaltreated children. Maltreated children also were more controlling with and less responsive to the examiner. In examining the differential impact of maltreatment subtype differences on maternal and self-representations, physically abused children evidenced the most negative maternal representations; they also had more negative self-representations than nonmaltreated children. Sexually abused children manifested more positive self-representations than neglected children. Despite these differences in the nature of maternal and self-representations, physically and sexually abused children both were more controlling and less responsive to the examiner. The investigation adds to the corpus of knowledge regarding disturbances in the self-system functioning of maltreated children and provides support for relations between representational models of self and other and the self-organizing function that these models exert on children's lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-796
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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