Assessing changes in the internal worlds of earlyand late-adopted children using the Story Stem Assessment Profile (SSAP)

Saul Hillman, Jill Hodges, Miriam Steele, Antonella Cirasola, Kay Asquith, Jeanne Kaniuk - Adoption & Fostering


A growing body of literature has consistently shown how adopted children often have previous history of trauma and neglect, and in turn develop negative representations of the self and others. This study assesses the internal representations of three groups of children, as measured by the Story Stem Assessment Profile (SSAP). These were: (1) a maltreated, late-adopted (MLA) sample (n = 63); (2) a non-maltreated, early-adopted (EA) sample (n = 48); and (3) a non-maltreated community sample (COMM) (n = 80). In addition, it examined whether MLA and EA adopted children’s attachment and internal representations changed over time. Results showed that children in the MLA sample significantly displayed more disorganised, avoidant and negative representations and fewer representations characteristic of ‘secure’ attachment when compared with EA and, especially, COMM children. Longitudinal follow-up of both MLA and EA samples demonstrated significant changes over a two-year period in SSAP representation; secure representations increased while the avoidant and disorganised ones diminished. These findings are discussed and the limitations and implications of the study presented.