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Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy

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Children's Family Drawings: A Study of Attachment,

Personality, and Adjustment
a a
Limor Goldner & Miri Scharf
Haifa, Israel

Version of record first published: 14 Apr 2011.

To cite this article: Limor Goldner & Miri Scharf (2011): Children's Family Drawings: A Study of Attachment, Personality, and
Adjustment, Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 28:1, 11-18

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Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 28(1) pp. 11–18 
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Children’s Family Drawings: A Study of Attachment,

Personality, and Adjustment

Limor Goldner and Miri Scharf, Haifa, Israel

Abstract alliances (which frequently indicate boundary dissolution)

were found to have less prosocial behavior and assertiveness
This study examined the relationship between children’s at- and a greater degree of social problems (Leon et al., 2007).
tachment security, as manifested in their family drawings, and Scholars and researchers have used family drawings to
their personality and adjustment. Family drawings were col- assess children’s attachment representations (e.g., Kaplan &
lected from 222 Israeli children, as well as data regarding their Main, 1986; Madigan, Ladd, & Goldberg, 2003; Pianta,
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personality and adjustment. Each drawing was coded and clas- Longmaid, & Ferguson, 1999). The study described in this
sified into 1 of 4 attachment categories based on global and article extends previous research by examining the relation-
individual characteristics such as completeness of figures, facial ship between children’s attachment security, as manifested
expression, size, and degree of movement. Results showed that in their family drawings, and their personality traits and ad-
drawings from securely attached children included more positive justment. We focused on the family drawings of elementary
markers of personality and reflected their superior psychosocial school children and attempted to identify the features of
functioning. Drawings from children in the ambivalent and drawings by children who might be at risk for adjustment
disorganized attachment categories reflected the children’s ad- problems.
justment difficulties; children whose drawings were classified as
representing avoidant attachment were found to function rel- Attachment Theory
atively well. The study demonstrated the effectiveness of using
Attachment theory posits that, beginning in infancy
family drawings to assess children’s attachment representations and continuing throughout the course of life, an individual’s
and to identify children at risk for adjustment problems in the mental health and his or her capacity to form close relation-
school setting. ships are closely linked to prior relationships with attach-
ment figures that provided emotional support and protec-
Introduction tion (Belsky & Cassidy, 1994; Bretherton & Munholland,
2008). Accordingly, children’s actual experiences shape their
Family drawings have a long history of clinical use be- representational models, which subsequently serve to guide
cause they provide a representation of a child’s view of fam- their behavior in novel circumstances (Bowlby, 1980). Chil-
ily dynamics and the self within the family (Leon, Wallace, dren experiencing sensitive and responsive care will have se-
& Rudy, 2007). The nonverbal nature of drawings allows cure attachment, characterized by the ability to develop trust
children to express nonconscious aspects of their mental in others, to find comfort with closeness, and to develop
representations that they may be unable to convey verbally adaptive ways of dealing with stress. Avoidant attachment is
(Fury, Carlson, & Sroufe, 1997). The use of family draw- associated with having discomfort with closeness and an in-
ings generally relies on a clinical and theoretical base but not clination for self-reliance, whereas a child with anxious (am-
on a solid empirical foundation. However, in recent years bivalent) attachment has an intense desire for closeness and
children’s family drawings have become increasingly stud- experiences constant concern about the parent’s availability
ied in empirical research (e.g., Deaver, 2009; Leon et al., (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2006). Children with disorganized
2007; Milne, Greenway, & Best, 2005). For researchers as attachment are characterized by an apparent lack or collapse
well as therapists, the drawings can shed light on children’s of a consistent and organized strategy for dealing with stress.
internal worlds and their perception of their families and The particular forms and mixtures of disorganized behav-
parents. For example, Piperno, Di Biasi, and Levi (2007) iors tend to be idiosyncratic from child to child, but include
found that drawings by physically and/or sexually abused anxious, helpless, or depressed behaviors; unexpected fluctu-
children revealed greater emotional distress than drawings ations of approach and avoidance toward the attachment fig-
by children who had not been abused. In another study, chil- ure; and other conflicted and unpredictable behaviors (Main
dren whose drawings reflected higher levels of parent–child & Solomon, 1990).

Editor’s Note: Limor Goldner, doctoral candidate, and Miri Family Drawings for Classifying Attachment
Scharf, PhD, are affiliated with the Department of Counsel- Representations
ing and Human Development at the University of Haifa, Israel.
Correspondence concerning this article may be addressed to the Most known assessments that use family drawings are
first author at not based on an empirically derived theory (Mostkoff &

Lazarus, 1983; Pianta et al., 1999). An early study by Kaplan and responsibility; (c) conscientiousness with respect to or-
and Main (1986) used attachment theory to classify chil- derliness and reliability; (d) openness to experience as it
dren’s family drawings into four patterns of attachment. On pertains to intellectual functioning, creativity, and imag-
the basis of specific markers in the drawings and their over- ination; and (e) neuroticism, which refers to a tendency
all configuration, Kaplan and Main found that drawings by to experience anxiety, depression, and emotional instability
children with secure attachment were realistic; figures were (Measelle, John, Ablow, Cowan, & Cowan, 2005; Shiner &
complete, grounded, and individuated (not drawn exactly Caspi, 2003). Research indicates that the characteristics of
alike). There was a natural proximity among family mem- these five traits are already present in childhood and that
bers and an impression of happiness in the family. Drawings personality plays an important role in an individual’s adjust-
by children classified as avoidant tried to convey a positive ment capacity (Barbaranelli, Caprara, Rabasca, & Pastorelli,
picture, emphasizing invulnerability and happiness. The fig- 2003; Measelle et al., 2005; Shiner & Caspi, 2003).
ures’ arms were absent or drawn in a way that did not allow Several studies have examined the relationship between
holding, and there was lack of individuation of the figures attachment and personality using various measures among
and lack of movement in the picture. Drawings by children adults. Attachment anxiety (characterizing the ambivalent
classified as ambivalent included figures that were extremely pattern) has been positively correlated with neuroticism
large or small, and either overlapped or were separated from and negatively correlated with agreeableness (Bäckström &
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each other with barriers. Soft body parts and facial features Holmes, 2001; Roismann et al., 2007; Winjngaards-de Meij
were exaggerated. Finally, drawings by children classified as et al., 2007), and attachment avoidance has been positively
disorganized/disoriented included strange marks, threaten- correlated with neuroticism (Bäckström & Holmes, 2001;
ing themes and fantasy themes, unfinished objects or figures, Carver, 1997; Shaver & Brennan, 1992; Winjngaards-de
and/or an impression of excessive and irrational sweetness. Meij et al., 2007) and negatively correlated with conscien-
Based on Kaplan and Main’s (1986) coding system, tiousness (Becker, Billings, Eveleth, & Gilbert, 1997) and
Fury et al. (1997) developed a global approach to children’s with extraversion and agreeableness (Bäckström & Holmes,
family drawings that considered each drawing as a whole in 2001; Becker et al., 1997; Roismann et al., 2007). Thus,
an integrative manner. The eight rating scales they devel- these studies found that the personality traits of neuroticism
oped consist of two positive dimensions (vitality/creativity and agreeableness in adults consistently correlated with at-
and family pride/happiness) and six negative dimensions tachment styles, whereas other personality traits were less
(vulnerability, emotional distance/isolation, tension/anger, consistently correlated with attachment styles.
role reversal, bizarreness/dissociation, and global pathology). Studies examining the relationship between attachment
The global rating scales were correlated with children’s at- security and personality traits among school-aged children
tachment classifications as assessed in infancy. The authors’ are fairly rare. Hagekull and Bohlin (2003) examined rela-
analysis showed that even after controlling for IQ, current tionships between infant temperament, attachment security,
life stress, and emotional functioning, the children’s early and the five personality traits described above. Using parent
attachment history made a significant contribution to the ratings of their children’s temperament at age 20 months and
prediction of negative dimensions in their drawings (Fury attachment to their mother at 15 months, and their moth-
et al., 1997). ers’ and teachers’ ratings on the five personality traits, the
In another study (Madigan et al., 2003), children whose researchers found that attachment security predicted neu-
family drawings depicted higher levels of emotional dis- roticism and openness; however, there was no prediction of
tance, vulnerability, and parent–child role reversal were agreeableness and conscientiousness.
found to have an insecure attachment history, whereas fam-
ily drawings that scored higher in family pride and lower Attachment and Children’s Adjustment
in global pathology were drawn by children with a secure
attachment history. Carlson, Sroufe, and Egeland (2004) Individual differences in attachment security are ex-
conducted a longitudinal study in which children’s family pressed in emotional regulation and exploration, and have
drawings at age 8 were found to correlate with the chil- important implications for social and personality develop-
dren’s attachment classification identified from interview ment as well as for adjustment (Weinfield, Sroufe, Egeland,
data gathered while the children were in preschool and again & Carlson, 2008). In general, research has shown that at-
at age 12. tachment security facilitates resilient functioning and serves
as a buffer when coping with adversities, whereas insecure
Attachment and Personality attachment may hamper a child’s adjustment. However, not
all studies distinguish between the different types of attach-
Personality refers to a person’s tendencies to behave, ment insecurity.
think, and feel in certain consistent ways (Shiner & Caspi, Substantial evidence indicates that children with se-
2003). Personality traits indicate inherited characteristics cure attachment develop better social–emotional compe-
and intrinsic maturation (McCrae et al., 2000), and re- tence (Granot & Mayseless, 2001; Ranson & Urichuk,
flect individual strengths and weaknesses. Five traits repre- 2008). They have more constructive coping mechanisms,
sent major domains of personality: (a) extraversion, which better regulation of emotion in the classroom (Kerns, Abra-
refers to activity level and is expressed through sociability, ham, Schlegelmilch, & Morgan, 2007), and better behav-
enthusiasm, assertiveness, and self-confidence; (b) agreeable- ioral adjustment (Granot & Mayseless, 2001). Attachment
ness, which is expressed through sensitivity toward others security is also correlated with social competence (Early

Child Care Research Network, 2006; Walls, 1998), social Israel that were located in both peripheral and central city
support, and peer acceptance (Granot & Mayseless, 2001; neighborhoods populated by families with lower socioeco-
Kerns, Kelpac, & Cole, 1996). Children who have insecure nomic status. Of the total sample, 55% were boys (n = 121)
attachment have been found to experience more loneliness and 45% were girls (n = 101). The mean age of the children
(Kerns & Stevens, 1995; Kerns et al., 1996) and depression was 9.70 years (range 8–12 years; SD = 1.14); the mean age
(Graham & Easterbrooks, 2000). Two studies used Kaplan of their parents was 43 years (SD = 7.30). Fifty-three percent
and Main’s (1986) coding system to examine children’s be- of the children were from two-parent families, 28% had par-
havioral adjustment: Pianta et al. (1999) studied the draw- ents who were divorced, and 19% were from single-parent
ings of preschool children and found indications of previous families. Children who were born in Israel made up 62% of
and concurrent social and behavioral competence that were the sample and the others were immigrants (most from the
independent of the children’s age, sex, socioeconomic sta- former Soviet Union). The children had an average of 2.38
tus, intelligence, and motor skills, and Carlson et al. (2004) siblings each (range 1–11; SD = 1.56)
found that children’s drawings predicted the children’s social
functioning in early and late adolescence. Procedure
Insecure attachment has been associated with various
behavioral, social, and emotional problems (Weinfield et al., After receiving permission from the Ministry of Educa-
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2008). Sroufe (1983) suggested that both ambivalently tion and written consent from the children and their parents,
attached and avoidant children may behave aggressively. the children completed the drawing task and the personality
Avoidant children may behave in a hostile way, as in bullying questionnaire during home visits, which were conducted by
and lying, whereas ambivalent children can be easily aroused trained research assistants. The children were asked to draw
and may display impulsivity and attention difficulties their families on a white piece of paper and were given eight
(Deklyen & Greenberg, 2008). Attention deficit/ colored felt-tipped pens. After a child completed the draw-
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be related to in- ing, the research assistants wrote the identity of each fig-
secure internal models of attachment (Clarke, Ungerer, ure depicted in the drawing and any additional information
Chahoud, Johnson, & Stiefel, 2002), with higher levels of the child described. The homeroom teachers in the partici-
hyperactivity found in children with avoidant attachment pating schools completed questionnaires regarding the chil-
(Moss, Bureau, Cyr, Mongeau, & St-Laurent, 2004). dren’s emotional and social adjustment.
Children diagnosed with combined or predominantly
hyperactive-impulse ADHD may be more likely to have Measures
anxious and ambivalent attachment styles than children
with predominantly inattentive type ADHD (Finzi-Dottan, Two trained raters coded all drawings using the sys-
Manor, & Tyano, 2006). Ambivalent attachment also is tem developed by Fury et al. (1997), as well as Kaplan and
associated with anxiety problems and depression (Weinfield Main’s (1986) attachment classifications that focus on size,
et al., 2008). location, degree of movement, individualized characteris-
Children with disorganized attachment styles are an es- tics, completeness of figures, facial expression, context, and
pecially vulnerable population. They may have greater so- overall impression of vulnerability. A detailed manual was
cial and behavioral difficulties in the classroom (Goldwyn, adapted by further delineating specific examples to dimin-
Green, Stanley, & Smith, 2000) and may experience disso- ish ambiguity, based on the Kaplan and Main study as well
ciation (Main & Moran, 1996), as well as various externaliz- as the research conducted by Fury et al.. The training and
ing problems such as noncompliance and tantrums (Lyons- adaptation of the manual, including examination for inter-
Ruth, 1996). A high frequency of disorganized attachment rater reliability, was initially constructed based on another
has been found among boys with oppositional defiant dis- sample. The interrater intraclass reliability for the separate
order (Greenberg, Speltz, Deklyen, & Endriga, 1991). indicators in this study ranged from .70 to 1.00. Disagree-
The aim of the current study was to examine the re- ments between the coders were resolved by consensus.
lationship between the attachment representations of el- Each drawing was also coded using 8 global scales rang-
ementary school–aged children, as manifested in their ing from 1 (low level) to 7 (high level) for the following di-
family drawings, and their personality traits and social and mensions: (a) vitality, which refers to emotional investment
behavioral adjustment. We hypothesized that children with in drawing, creativity, and the richness of details in the draw-
secure attachment representations would have higher lev- ing; (b) pride, which refers to expressions of happiness in
els of agreeable behavior and lower levels of neuroticism, the family group drawn and the degree of connectedness de-
more prosocial behaviors, fewer behavioral and social prob- picted among family members; (c) vulnerability as expressed
lems, a lower degree of hyperactivity, and fewer emotional in the placement of figures and distortions in the size of body
symptoms. parts; (d) isolation, which refers to a sense of emotional dis-
tance and loneliness expressed in neutral or negative affect
Method depicted as well as a lack of proximity between the mother
and child figures; (e) tension/anger, referring to restriction
Participants of the figures expressed in careless appearance, lack of col-
ors, and the like; (f ) role reversal as indicated by a dispro-
A total of 222 children participated in the study. Chil- portion in the size and/or the roles depicted of the figures;
dren were drawn from 19 elementary schools in northern (g) bizarreness, which indicates disorganization reflected in

Table 1 Profile of Drawing Dimensions According to Attachment Classifications

Secure Avoidant Ambivalent Disorganized

n = 92 n = 43 n = 68 n = 19

Dimension M M M M F Attachment η2 Attachment

Vitality 5.17 (1.19) 2.87 (1.04) 3.89 (.83) 3.88 (1.76) 36.32∗∗∗ .36
Pride 4.31 (1.12) 2.77 (.73) 3.13 (.94) 2.76 (1.25) 28.15∗∗∗ .31
Vulnerability 2.58 (1.14) 3.20 (1.42) 4.03 (1.36) 4.29 (1.36) 19.16∗∗∗ .23
Isolation 2.60 (1.30) 4.07 (1.51) 3.59 (1.52) 4.29 (1.49) 13.39∗∗∗ .17
Tension 1.70 (.86) 4.40 (1.35) 3.51 (1.53) 4.00 (2.06) 44.69∗∗∗ .41
Role reversal 1.73 (.26) 2.60 (1.73) 2.46 (1.95) 1.88 (1.76) 3.53∗ .05
Bizarreness 1.24 (.57) 1.73 (1.01) 1.86 (.82) 3.00 (1.12) 25.62∗∗∗ .29
Pathology 1.88 (.75) 3.63 (.89) 3.02 (.66) 3.65 (1.27) 53.65∗∗∗ .46
Note. Standard deviations appear in parentheses after the means.
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p < .05, ∗∗∗ p < .001.

unusual signs and fantasy themes; and (h) global pathology, To examine the different profiles of attachment classi-
which refers to negativity, incompleteness of the figures, and fications we conducted a MANOVA, with the attachment
impoverished expression in the drawing, details, and back- categories serving as the independent variable and the di-
ground. The interrater reliability for the global scales ranged mensions of the 8 global scales serving as the dependent
from .80 to .95. variable (Table 1). The MANOVA revealed a significant
In addition, drawings were used to classify children into main effect of attachment, F (8, 185) = 30.58, p < .001,
one of four attachment categories (Kaplan & Main, 1986): η2 = .57. As can be seen in Table 1, based on their draw-
(a) secure, (b) avoidant, (c) ambivalent, and (d) disorga- ings, secure children demonstrated the highest levels of vi-
nized, as described above. The correspondence between the tality and pride, and the lowest levels of isolation, ten-
coders on the four main classifications, based on 31 sample sion, bizarreness, and pathology. They also demonstrated
drawings, was 77.4%, χ 2(9) = 53.11, p < .001; κ = .68, the lowest levels of vulnerability (together with the avoidant
p < .001. Disagreements between coders were resolved by group) and lower levels of role reversal than the ambiva-
consensus. lent group. The disorganized group exhibited the highest
Homeroom teachers completed the Strengths and Diffi- levels of bizarreness and higher levels of vulnerability (to-
culties Questionnaire (Goodman, 1997) to measure the chil- gether with the preoccupied group) than the secure and the
dren’s emotional and social adjustment. The questionnaire avoidant groups. The avoidant group showed higher levels
consists of five subscales, each with 5 items that are rated of tension than the ambivalent group.
on a 3-point scale (1 = almost never, 2 = sometimes, 3 = al- Next we examined the relationship between the di-
most always). The questionnaires generated scores for proso- mensions of the children’s drawings and their personal-
cial behaviors (e.g., “Considerate of other people’s feelings”; ities by computing Pearson correlations (Table 2). Most
α = .82), emotional symptoms (e.g., “Often complains of of the correlations emerged between the positive person-
headaches, stomach-aches, or sickness”; α = .73), hyperac- ality traits and the positive dimensions of the 8 scales.
tivity (e.g., “Restless, overactive”; α = .80), social problems Conscientiousness and agreeableness were positively cor-
(e.g., “Rather solitary, prefers to be alone”; α = .74), and be- related with vitality and were negatively correlated with
havioral problems (e.g., “Often loses temper”; α = .70). The bizarreness and pathology; additionally, conscientiousness
Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire has been shown to was negatively correlated with tension. The other correla-
be a useful tool in diagnosing children’s psychiatric disor- tions were not significant. A second MANOVA, with at-
ders; internal consistency for each of the five subscales has tachment categories serving as the independent variable
been shown to be good, with a mean Cronbach alpha of .73 and personality traits as the dependent variable, was not
(Goodman, 2001). significant.
To examine the relationship between children’s draw-
Results ings and adjustment (as reported by homeroom teachers) we
computed Pearson correlations (Table 3). Prosocial behavior
We first coded the drawings using the 8 global scales was negatively correlated with vulnerability. Hyperactivity
described above and then used them to assign children to and behavioral problems were negatively correlated with vi-
one of the four attachment classifications. Of the 222 chil- tality and pride, and positively correlated with isolation, ten-
dren in the sample, 41.4% were classified as secure, 19.4% as sion, bizarreness, and pathology. Hyperactivity was also pos-
avoidant, 30.6% as ambivalent, and 8.6% as disorganized. itively correlated with vulnerability. Emotional symptoms
The distribution generally reflects the children’s status as at- and social problems were not correlated with any of the di-
risk for adjustment difficulties. mensions of the scales.

Table 2 Pearson Correlations Matrix for Drawing Dimensions and Personality Characteristics

Neuroticism Extroversion Openness Conscientiousness Agreeableness

Vitality −.08 −.02 −.03 .15 .23∗∗
Pride −.10 .02 −.02 .11 .10
Vulnerability .05 .03 .03 −.06 −.00
Isolation .08 .03 .03 −.06 −.00
Tension .13† −.01 .10 −.16∗ −.12†
Role reversal .11 .07 .02 −.01 −.04
Bizarreness .02 .12† −.02 −.15∗ −.18∗∗
Pathology −.02 −.00 .06 −.24∗∗∗ −.25∗∗∗
Note. N = 222 for all analyses.

p < .10, ∗ p < .05, ∗∗ p < .01, ∗∗∗ p < .001.
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To examine the differences among the attachment that reflect potential problems. The ambivalent group was
groups, we conducted a final MANOVA with attachment conspicuous in the higher levels of role reversal depicted in
categories serving as the independent variable and the ad- their drawings as compared to the children with secure at-
justment scales serving as the dependent variable, con- tachment; children with ambivalent attachment also drew
trolling for gender (Table 4). The MANOVA revealed a drawings with higher levels of vulnerability depicted (to-
significant main effect of attachment group, F (5, 198) = gether with the disorganized group). The avoidant group ex-
3.32, p < .01, η2 = .08. As can be seen in Table 4, secure and pressed higher levels of tension than the ambivalent group.
avoidant children exhibited higher levels of prosocial behav- Finally, children with disorganized attachment drew draw-
ior than the ambivalent group, secure children showed lower ings that exhibited the highest levels of bizarreness. These
levels of conduct problems than the ambivalent and the dis- findings attest to the difficulties of both the ambivalent
organized groups, and avoidant children showed lower levels group and the disorganized group especially, and empha-
of conduct problems than the disorganized group. size the positive characteristics of the secure group (Madigan
et al., 2003; Fury et al., 1997).
Discussion The findings did not confirm our hypothesis regard-
ing the relationship between attachment and personality.
The study supported the findings of previous research There were no differences between the four attachment
and demonstrated the usefulness of analyzing children’s fam- groups with respect to children’s personality characteris-
ily drawings using a theory-based global coding system. We tics. However, positive personality traits (conscientiousness
were able to identify children who had secure attachment and agreeableness) correlated with vitality, as predicted, and
and, more importantly, we were able to identify children correlated negatively with bizarreness and pathology; con-
who were more vulnerable. Drawings by children with se- scientiousness was also negatively correlated with tension.
cure attachment revealed the highest levels of positive mark- Neuroticism, a personality trait that has been consistently
ers (vitality and pride) and the lowest levels in dimensions related to attachment among adults, does not show the same

Table 3 Pearson Correlation Matrix for Drawing Dimensions and Adjustment

Prosocial Emotional Behavioral

Behavior Symptoms Hyperactivity Social Problems Problems
Vitality .04 −.04 −.19∗∗ .06 −.16∗
Pride .07 −.09 −.23∗∗ .00 −.21∗∗
Vulnerability −.15∗ −.02 .16∗ −.01 .08
Isolation −.05 .07 .15∗ −.06 .16∗
Tension −.13† .06 .29∗∗∗ .04 .25∗∗∗
Role reversal .08 −.02 −.01 −.13† .03
Bizarre −.11 −.01 .15∗ .01 .21∗∗
Pathology −.02 .03 .19∗∗ −.07 .15∗
Note. N = 203 for all analyses.

p < .10, ∗ p < .05, ∗∗ p < .01, ∗∗∗ p < .001.

Table 4 Reported Adjustment Characteristics by Attachment Classifications

Secure Avoidant Ambivalent Disorganized

n = 92 n = 43 n = 68 n = 19

M M M M F Attachment η2 Attachment
Prosocial 2.44 (.51) 2.51 (.49) 2.20 (.53) 2.30 (.45) 4.57∗∗ .06
Emotional 1.68 (.55) 1.54 (.51) 1.73 (.49) 1.91 (.61) 2.09 .03
Hyperactivity 1.82 (.57) 1.95 (.53) 2.05 (.55) 2.00 (.66) .78 .01
Social problems 1.49 (.49) 1.46 (.46) 1.55 (.48) 1.61 (.48) .52 .01
Behavioral 1.34 (.44) 1.36 (.38) 1.52 (.52) 1.63 (.44) 2.93∗ .04
Note. Standard deviations appear in parentheses after the means.
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p < .05, ∗∗ p < .01.

pattern in our study. It is possible that because our partici- disruptive behaviors than to detect more subtle behaviors.
pants were children, the dimension of neuroticism at this Training teachers to observe and detect less obvious behav-
developmental stage is less problematic than among adults. iors could increase their abilities to identify and help vulner-
It is also possible that the assessment of family drawings is able children.
less finely tuned to uncovering neuroticism. The study demonstrated the effectiveness of children’s
The findings pertaining to the relationship between at- family drawings as a tool for learning about their relational
tachment representations as reflected in children’s drawings representations and pinpointing children at risk for having
and the children’s adjustment demonstrated the superior adjustment problems in the school setting. Thus, children’s
psychosocial functioning of children who were classified as drawings could serve as an important means to reveal the
having secure attachment and the inferior functioning of the children’s strengths, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses. Aspects
ambivalent group, as already evidenced in previous stud- of children’s drawings were associated with positive person-
ies (Pianta et al., 1999). The poor adjustment of the chil- ality traits as well as with the more externalized adjustment
dren classified as disorganized was especially evident. Specifi- problems.
cally, secure and avoidant children exhibited higher levels of In the current study, homeroom teachers reported
prosocial behavior than the ambivalent group, secure chil- on the participating children’s social adjustment, which
dren showed lower levels of conduct problems than the am- provided an additional and important perspective. Never-
bivalent and the disorganized groups, and avoidant children theless, it should be noted that teachers see their pupils
showed lower levels of conduct problems than the disorga- mainly in learning situations, and although they likely are
nized group. better at identifying more troublesome behaviors, the teach-
The finding that children with secure attachment ex- ers may not be as sensitive to less salient behaviors. Reports
hibit good psychosocial functioning is not surprising. Their from children’s parents and other observers could add impor-
trust in others, their adaptive ways of dealing with stress, tant information that may provide a richer and more com-
and their better emotional regulation strategies all promote plete picture.
greater social–emotional competence and behavioral ad- The study was conducted in the Israeli cultural context,
justment (Granot & Mayseless, 2001; Kerns et al., 2007; which is characterized by high family values and close family
Ranson & Urichuk, 2008). The inferior functioning of ties (Lavee & Katz, 2003). Similar studies should be under-
the children with ambivalent attachment corroborates the taken in other cultural contexts to allow for generalizations.
findings of Pianta et al. (1999) in their study of children It is also important to bear in mind that the study was con-
in kindergarten with respect to behavioral problems and ducted among a sample of children from families with low
less competence. As in our study, Pianta et al. found that socioeconomic status. The relationship between attachment
avoidant children functioned relatively well. They suggested and adjustment may be different in children from lower risk
that these children’s task-focused behaviors, as well as their backgrounds.
tendencies to manage independently without demanding Finally, it is important for clinicians and educators to
adult help, may result in their teachers perceiving them as address children’s attachment representations as well as their
fairly well adjusted. maladjusted behavior (London, Downey, Bonica, & Paltin,
Also interesting was the lack of correlation between the 2007) in order to improve their adjustment and to help alle-
8 scales and the emotional symptoms and social problems viate their distress. Children’s drawings enable a glance into
as rated by the children’s teachers. It may be that attach- their internal worlds and provide possible starting points
ment derivatives are more closely related to these disrup- for helping them cope with difficulties and enhance their
tive behaviors. Alternately, it may be easier to discern overtly adjustment. More systematic exploration and more precise

analysis of children’s drawings could improve intervention Fury, G., Carlson, E. A., & Sroufe, L. A. (1997). Children’s repre-
efforts and help clinicians focus on specific assets as well as sentations of attachment relationships in family drawings. Child
on certain difficulties. Development, 68, 1154–1164.

Goldwyn, R., Green, J. M., Stanley, C., & Smith, V. (2000). The
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