Child-caregiver attachment representations in a non-western context: The feasibility and cultural equivalence of story stems in urban Ghana.


Story stem measures are an increasingly popular method for assessing the attachment representations of young children, but little is known of their cross-cultural applicability. This study aimed to characterise the attachment representations in 73 five- to eight-year-old children in urban Ghana, West Africa, using the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task (MCAST) to test its feasibility, psychometric characteristics and concurrent associations with caregiver- and teacher-rated child behaviour, and to conduct a qualitative thematic analysis of methodological observations. Among the classifiable cases (92 percent), all attachment classifications were observed, yielding a higher rate of secure attachment than in European samples. Inter-rater reliability, internal consistency, and internal structure were reasonable and largely similar to European studies, although one structural difference was the separation of ‘child assuagement of distress’ from other secure-related items. MCAST narratives were associated with teacher- and caregiver-rated hyperactivity, but internal consistency was low in most Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire scales. Possible culturally-sensitive explanations for our psychometric and qualitative findings are discussed. Overall, story stems are a promising tool for accessing attachment representations in non-Western samples, although modifications are likely to improve cross-cultural equivalence when applied to non-Western cultures. Further investigation is needed to link MCAST outcomes to parenting and socio-emotional development.