Thesis Title

Assessing Inmate Attachment Through the Bird's Nest Drawing: Art Therapy in a Correctional Setting

Graduation Date

Spring 2011

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


Lisa Bjerknes, MD, MBA

First Reader

Laury Rappaport, PhD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC


This was a quantitative arts-based research study designed to assess if there is a correlation between attachment security and the Bird’s Nest Drawing (BND) assessment. This quantitative study was a pre-experimental single group design with 15 inmates at San Quentin State Prison. The hypothesis of this research was that individuals who are incarcerated in a minimum security unit at a state prison will have low attachment levels as assessed through the Draw-A-Bird’s-Nest (BND) drawing assessment. The results of the BND in this study compared to the previous research studies indicate that in regard to secure attachment, there was a mixed result with 53% including birds in the picture; 53% with birds in the nest; and 80% that used four or more colors. Therefore, the hypothesis that low attachment would be found is inconclusive. In previous research, the predominance of green has been thought to be an indicator of secure attachment. In this sample, only 7% of the drawing used green as a dominant color, possible indicating a low security indicator.