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What is the Marschak Interaction method (MIM)?

The MIM is a clinical tool used for structured observation of the interaction between parent and child used to assess the quality of their relationship for purposes of parent guidance and treatment planning. The MIM was created by Marianne Marschak in the 1960s at the Yale Child Study Center; it was originally called the Controlled Interaction Schedule and various articles were published under that name. In the 1970s Jernberg, the creator of Theraplay, began to use the MIM in conjunction with Theraplay treatment. The Theraplay Institute is the publisher of the MIM. Several groups have developed rating scales to facilitate research using the MIM. Kevin O’Connor, PhD and Sue Ammen, PhD, and students at Alliant University, Fresno, CA have developed and tested the MIM Rating Scale (MIM-RS). Salo & Makela (2006) of Finland have standardized and published a rating scale for the MIM for research purposes under the name Assessment of Emotional Interaction Style. Anne Stewart has developed the MIM Behavior Rating Scale (MIMBRS) to help clinicians plan therapy to enhance parent-child relationships.

Peer-reviewed studies on the Marschak Interaction Method

Bojanowski, J.J. & Ammen, S. (2011). Discriminating Between Pre- Versus Post-Theraplay
Treatment Marschak Interaction Methods Using the Marschak Interaction Method Rating System. International Journal of Play Therapy, Vol 20 (1), 1-11.

This study validated the MIMRS against the CBCL to measure effectiveness of Theraplay treatment. Although sample size was modest (11 parent-child dyads), results showed a strong effect size on total score and on the nurture and challenge dimensions.

Hitchcock, D. L.; Ammen, S.; O'Connor, K.; Backman, T. L. (2008). Validating the Marschak Interaction Method Rating System with adolescent mother-child dyads. International Journal of Play Therapy, Vol 17(1), 24-38.

The authors investigated the reliability and construct validity of the Marschak Interaction Method Rating System (MIMRS), a new observational scoring system for the play-based Marschak Interaction Method (MIM), particularly its ability to capture high-risk parenting in adolescent mother-child dyads. The MIMRS demonstrated high interrater reliability and high internal consistency. Convergent validity was supported by moderately negative correlations between the MIMRS and the Parenting Stress Index/Short Form. The MIMRS demonstrated good contrasted groups validity, differentiating between 15 adolescent-child dyads and 16 adult- child comparison dyads, even after adjustment for differences in children's age. These results suggest that the MIMRS has the potential be a valuable rating system for research and practice with the MIM, as well as understanding and assessing parent-child relationships.

Martin, E. E.; Snow, M. S.; Sullivan, K. (2006). Patterns of relating between mothers and preschool-aged children using the Marschak Interaction Method Rating System. Early Child Development and Care, Vol 178 (3), 305-314.

This study assesses the relationship of patterns of relating between mothers and their preschool-aged children. Thirty-one families were used, and the mother and child participated in the Marschak Interaction Method Rating System (MIM-RS). Mothers also completed the Demographic Data Questionnaire. Correlations based upon the MIM-RS for mothers and their preschool-aged children produced significant results. Mother's ability to structure, challenge, engage, nurture and facilitate their child's regulatory processes positively related/influenced their preschool-age child's ability to demonstrate exploratory behaviors, reciprocity with their parent and to demonstrate regulatory behaviors. A parent who was not able to structure, challenge, engage, nurture and facilitate their child's regulatory processes produced a child who was not capable of exploring their environment, regulating their own self-regulatory processes or staying within a comfortable and communicative stance with their parent.


MIM Research