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From The CriticsReviewer: Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D. (Cermak Health Services)
Description: The book describes the MacArthur Story Stem Battery, an assessment tool developed in the 1980s in order to better understand the inner world of young children. The test consists of 14 story stems and the child responds within a play therapy setting. This seems to follow in the psychoanalytic play therapy tradition.
Purpose: According to the editors, "this book reports the work of a research consortium that has assembled a new tool for eliciting a narrative that can reveal vivid aspects of a young child's inner world. The tool consists of a systematic group of story beginnings, enacted in play, and referred to as the MacArthur Story Stem Battery (MSSB). What is exciting to us is that most preschool children enthusiastically complete these story stems and, in so doing, they allow us access to their representational worlds, to what they understand, and to their inner feelings." Those are worthy objectives, and the book definitely meets them.
Audience: According to the editors, the target audience includes psychologists and other clinicians working with young children. I agree with the editors, but I think graduate students specializing in child psychology would gain much from this book. The editors and contributors are credible authorities in the field. In fact, the editors were very instrumental in the development and pilot-testing of this assessment tool.
Features: The book thoroughly describes the MacArthur Story Stem Battery (MSSB) and provides many case examples. It also provides narratives from abused children and those at risk. The book ends with mother-child dialogues, whose shared narrative revolve around emotionally-laden events. The book is good because it provides so many clinical examples. Readers will feel like they have a good understanding of this tool and how to use it and interpret in clinical situations.
Assessment: I really enjoyed this book because it achieves its end, i.e. describing the MacArthur Story Stem Battery. This tool is an excellent way of understanding the inner world of young children. The book is well-written and seems to cover many important facets of psychological functioning. It is must reading for anyone who is working with preschool age children, especially if he/she is working from a dynamic or psychoanalytic orientation.