Thesis Title

A Study of the Mother-and-Child Drawing as an Indicator of Separation Anxiety in the Adolescent Population

Graduation Date

Spring 1998

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


This study examines projective mother-and-child drawings executed by 11 adolescents experiencing separation anxiety, with histories of maternal deprivation; and 11 adolescents not experiencing symptoms of separation anxiety. An adaptation of the Formal Elements Art Therapy Rating Scale (Gantt, 1996) was used to compare formal elements and content variables in the drawings of each group. Use of the FEATS, and adaptations of the FEATS, brings greater objectivity to examination of projective mother- and-child drawings. Major findings show that adolescents with separation anxiety appear to put more energy into their mother-and-child drawings. Their drawings reflect less logic and realism, and greater unification between mother and child. Adolescents with, separation anxiety collectively depicted fewer human figures, and more symbolic figures. The most frequently depicted age of mother-and-child: adolescent/mother and child/child. Adolescents without separation anxiety did not depict humans symbolically. The most frequently depicted age of mother and child: adult/mother and infant/child. Drawings of adolescents with separation anxiety also contained greater numbers of graphic defense mechanisms: undoing, avoidance, encapsulation, denial, and symbolism. This group of adolescents portrayed greater physical connection between mother-and-child; this was apparent in levels of eye contact and tactile contact. Based on this study, There appear to be distinctive qualities unique to mother-and-child drawings executed by adolescents with separation anxiety