Complex Developmental Trauma in Children: The Utility of the Trauma Content Index and Critical Contents on the Rorschach


Anna Kelley

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Capstone Project

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Hale Martin

Second Advisor

Michael Karson

Third Advisor

Claire Poole


Complex Trauma, Rorschach, Children, Trauma Content Index


This study explores the utility of the Rorschach Trauma Content Index (TCI, Armstrong & Loewenstein, 1990) and the Rorschach Critical Contents (Perry and Viglione, 1991) in children who suffer from complex developmental trauma. Differences on the individual content and thematic code subcomponents of the Trauma Content Index (TCI: (An+Bl+Sx+MOR+AG)/R) and the Critical Contents (CritCont% (MOR+AGM+An+Bl+Ex+Fi+Sx)/R, R-PAS) are examined. Individual responses are further explored from a qualitative standpoint. For the purposes of this study, which serves as a pilot study for further research in this domain, Rorschach protocols from children aged 5-12 collected during their stay in residential treatment are examined. All children in the study have early histories of abuse and neglect. The results show that only six children out of 32 (19%) met the cut-off score for the TCI, suggesting it is not a strong indicator of abuse and neglect typically associated with complex trauma. However, all but one of the individual content scores showed an increase in the complex developmental trauma sample compared to the norms, which lends support to the idea that the individual content scores are affected by trauma. Qualitatively, several themes were found in the protocols that did not meet the criteria to be coded as content scores on the TCI or CritCont%, but appear relevant in the context of trauma. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


36 pages

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