Assessing the child’s inner world of representations about family life and modes of social interaction has enriched through the development of the story stem technique. In our longitudinal study we aim to investigate whether story stem responses are associated with children’s symptoms/strengths at kindergarten age and whether story stem responses are predictors of changes in children’s symptoms/strengths between 5 and 6. Five-year-old children from a clinically enriched sample completed eight story stems of the MacArthur
Story Stem Battery (N=187). A multi-informant approach (parent, teacher, child) was employed to assess children’s symptoms/strengths at 5 and 6. Children were interviewed using a standardized puppet interview. Parents and teachers completed questionnaires. Results showed that a large number of negative parental representations at 5 predicted an increase in conduct problems one year later, whereas a large number of positive parental representations at 5 predicted an increase in prosocial behaviour one year later. In terms of emotional symptoms and hyperactivity/inattention, symptoms at 5 were the only predictor for symptoms one year later. When comparing children with clinically relevant levels of behavioural/emotional symptoms and non-clinical children we found that the association between positive narrative characteristics and positive behavioural competences was prominent in children with clinically relevant behavioural/emotional symptoms. Our findings support the clinical approach that it is important to address the representational level in diagnostic and psychotherapy with young children and suggest that narrative assessments may help to identify resources on which psychotherapeutic approaches can build.