How useful is Jimmy Kimmel’s Halloween prank on children as an attachment assessment tool?
Late night host Jimmy Kimmel developed a “comedy” sketch where he invited parents to tell their children the day after Halloween that they had eaten all of their children’s candy, and to video record what happens. The responses are often dramatic, and quite varied. Some children will explode with anger and hit things or their parents. Others will attempt to hide their feelings and caretake their parent, putting their parent’s needs first, and say things like “It’s alright. I just want you to feel happy.” The two types of responses are classic and predictable attachment responses.
Attachment theory describes how children develop defense mechanisms to manage parents who engage in harm to them. More specifically, the Dynamic Maturational Model of Attachment (DMM) describes the attachment system as a primary developer of self-protective strategies which children utilize to survive danger presented by their parents. Kimmel’s prank presents, to many young children, a dramatic danger for which a dramatic self-protective response is elicited.
In this DMM Coffee House session, we’ll use coding methods from several attachment assessments, including the Strange Situation Procedure (SSP), Preschool Assessment of Attachment (PAA), two well validated attachment assessments, and the Toddler Care Index (TCI), an assessment in a long term validation process. We may also use Paul Echman’s facial micro-expression theory, and any other techniques participants bring to the session.
Kimmel has been doing this prank for about eleven years and the segments he played on his shows are available on YouTube. While this is a cruel thing for kids to endure, and while it can be hard to watch, the attachment behaviors do seem to be instantly triggered and relatively easy to identify. In the session, we’ll look at questions such as:
- Are the attachment responses (danger related self-protective strategies) clear, and if so how often are they clear?
- Are some of the responses clearly A, B, or C attachment strategies?
- How do we make sense of the variations when the response is something a bit less than a strong A, B, or C response? Can we sort out DMM attachment sub-patterns, such as A2(4), A4, C3 or C2?
- Are some of the attachment responses predictable in a split second from the initial facial gestures? Is the length of time for a facial gesture to be displayed a meaningful fact?
- What are the hallmark indicators of various strategies?
- Do some of these offer clues to what A-strategy anger looks like, and how we can distinguish it from C-strategy anger?
- Do we see positive affect, and even false positive affect (FPA)?
- Do we see caretaking?
- We see anger, but do we also see any form of a C-even response, such as sentimentalism, desire for comfort, feigned helplessness, or seduction?
- The videos which have siblings offer an interesting attachment assessment opportunity. (Attachment assessments typically only assess one person, not dyads.) Do we see sibling interaction have an impact on self-protective expressions? If so, or if not, what might it mean?
- Do these videos offer material to use in introducing the DMM to people?
- Is this trick on children too abusive? How would you instruct the parents to handle the final repair episode? If the videos are useful, would it be worthwhile to contact Kimmel’s office to see if they would share a number of the full video clips?
- Before you watch, consider what types of response behavior would you expect to see from a child whose hard earned candy has been taken?
As with any video, there is a lot of data even in these very short clips, none of which are more than a minute long. We recommend everyone watch at least one video (about 5 minutes all together) before hand.
The APHAAL assessment?
Kimmel and his staff collated partial recordings for the TV clips. It looks like parents often intuitively engage in a multi-step procedure: 1) get the child(ren)’s focused attention, 2) tell the child(ren) they ate all their candy, 3) watch the response, 4) make a repair. It looks like it might be a 1-2 minute procedure.
For now, we might call it, staying in line with Kimmel’s intent, the Alarming Post-Halloween Attachment Assessment Limited (APHAAL.) (Get it?)
In all seriousness, Kimmel’s procedure is similar to other attachment assessments which seek to create a structured situation with enough stress to trigger an attachment-survival system response. The situation is recorded and then coded to assess attachment-related behaviors, thoughts, and communications. The classic Strange Situation Procedure is 20 minutes, and the Toddler Care Index is 5 minutes. In the Toddler Care Index, parents asked to play with their children using a pile of toys provided for three minutes, the at the sound of cough to frustrate their children for one minute, then at the sound of a second cough to repair their child’s frustration. Attachment behaviors are easily observed and attachment patterns are assessed in these formalized scientific assessments.
Date and Time: Tuesday, 8 November 2022, 9am Seattle time, 5pm London, 7pm Cape Town (4am on Wednesday in Sydney AUS)
Details: no host, group coding, not recorded, invite your colleagues
Registration link: Contact CSI for a registration link, and make sure to say which DMM Coffee House session you want to attend.
Please join us!