Perception-of-Relationship Test


Perception-of-Relationship Test


A data-based test measuring a child’s closeness to each parent and the positive and negative impacts of parental relationships.

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Purpose:  Measures a child’s “closeness” to each parent and the positive and negative impacts of parental relationships

Age:  3 years and up

Testing Time:  Approximately 30 minutes

Scoring:  20-30 minutes

The PORT is a data-based test that measures the critical safe-unsafe feelings evoked in a child by each parent, and the different systems in which these feelings are evoked within a variety of key family situations.

The PORT reveals the feelings a child has of safety and comfort, as well as of fear and danger, evoked by each parent. These feelings are vital for a custody evaluator or therapist to know about, but children cannot or will not express them verbally. They range from safety, comfort, free-to-be-the-real-me feelings, to those of excessive caution, fear, need-to-retreat and anger. Keep in mind that almost all human behaviors are caused far more by feelings, than by “thinking.”

The PORT is one of the few tests that recognizes, and measures, the fact that children’s interactions with parents always occur within a specific family system. Dad and Child A is a different system, with different properties, than Dad with Child B.  Child A with Mom is a different system than Child A with Dad. Child in the simultaneous presence of both parents can be radically different from child-alone-with-either-parent. The same is true of other groupings. Note how often a child who never acts “bad” at home will act as a gang member. Less dramatically, but just as important, the mere presence of one particular parent may be far more comforting to a specific child than the presence of the other parent. Each is a separate system.

Why is system-specific assessment so critical? Because it is the only way a child can interact with others. Interactions are always systemic, even in the child’s thoughts. There is neuroscientific evidence (Antonio Damasio) that even when a child is alone and “thinking” about something, those thoughts are linked to the situations in which the items in the thoughts were acquired, which for a child usually includes a parent.

The PORT is ideal for therapists, especially for child and family therapists, who would profit from being able to pinpoint areas that need therapeutic resolution--areas that would never be revealed verbally by the child.

Specifically, the PORT measures:

  • The degree to which a child seeks psychological “closeness” with each parent.

  • The types of action tendencies (assertive, passive, aggressive, etc.) the child has developed in order to sustain interactions with each parent.

The main strengths of the PORT are:  

  • It expresses feelings nonverbally, which is closer to the inner experience than are words

  • A database has been developed specifically to assist in custody decision making.

  • It can be used with children as young as 3 years and as old as teenagers.

  • Its intentions are extremely well-disguised (especially helpful where children have been exposed to bribery).

  • The PORT is exceedingly sensitive to red-flags strongly suggesting physical and sexual abuse that may require further investigation.

The spiral-bound test booklet contains everything necessary to administer, record, and score the PORT.

The validation process for the PORT has been ongoing for more than 30 years. In validity studies, agreement rates with a variety of independent sources range from 83% to 93%.  Future validity is 89%.  Concurrent validity is 91%.   Test-retest reliability is 97% for Task Difference Scores greater than one.  If Task Difference Scores are 0 or 1 (that is, the more evenly matched the parents are), there is a 21% chance that the parent of choice could change on retesting. Two chapters in the PORT Manual are devoted to an in-depth summary of this validation process.

The PORT has been administered nationally over 150,000 times. It is one of the most frequently used custody tests for children in the United States.

Contains: Revised PORT Manual, 8 PORT Test/Scoring Booklets, PORT pen and eraser, newest validity reports.

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