You’ve heard of Tit for Tat. Well, now there’s Tat for Tot.

Posted June 8th, 2016.

Categories: Custody Tips, Family Law.

TAT for tots mark gurlanick

The old English expression “Tit for Tat” means this for that — if you did this to me, then I’m doing that to you. Equal retaliation! In a child custody case, however, you’d do better to think of the expression TAT for TOT. That’s because TAT stands for Thematic Apperception Test, and it is one of the most important psychological tests used on your tots, to assess their repressed personalities, their motives, and their defense mechanisms.

The TAT is known as a projective test. It is often given by psychologists who are appointed by the court to conduct a child custody assessment. There are 31 picture cards depicting a variety of human images — some male, some female, some older, some younger, some not so clear. The psychologist generally chooses 10 cards and shows them to the child, and asks the child to describe what he sees in the picture. The child is to project his thoughts onto the picture. He may be asked, in fact, to tell a story based on what he observes in the picture. The various illustrations surrounding today’s blog are all examples of the picture cards that are shown to children as part of the TAT.

As we’ve noted in each of the blogs over the last few days, psychological tests are not foolproof, and no single test tells everything we need to know to make the right choice for custody and parenting time rights. The TAT itself is flawed in the sense that it does not yield a score of any sort, and the interpretation of the results can be easily influenced by, or controlled by, the psychologist making the assessment. Indeed, the very decision as to which 10 cards to show a child as part of the assessment is itself a subjective and potentially biased process.

One interesting note about the TAT pictures. They seem to be overwhelmingly dismal and melancholy. They often depict depressing scenes. Therefore, you may wish to counsel your children how to react to such pictures. What would your son or daughter say he saw, if asked to comment on a picture depicting an older person’s death or a person in agony? Discussing these issues may help you gauge how your children react to such scenes, and may in fact reveal to you — in advance — whether they are likely to react oddly on the TAT.

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