Description of the Test

The Fairy Tale Test is a projective test for children aged 6-12 yrs and has been developed as part of a doctoral thesis by Carina Coulacoglou, at the University of Exeter in Great Britain (1989-1993). Since then it has been translated and standardized in different countries. It has already been published in French, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Slovenian, Polish and Russian.

The test consists of: 21 cards (7 sets of cards)(designed by the artist and graphic designer Anthony Glykos), each set consisting of three cards presented to the child at a time, a manual, and 25 protocols which demonstrate the general set of questions the child is asked as well as his responses.

The characters depicted on the cards are part of one or more fairy tales (“Little Red Riding Hood”, “Snow White and the seven dwarfs”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” etc.). In the stories, the thoughts and emotions of the characters are not clearly defined, for example, the reader is unaware of the underlying motive of the wolf’s violent behavior: was he hungry or bad? Therefore, the children through the process of identification, project their own thoughts, emotions or conflicts, whereas in the “scenes” of the two fairy tales (the last 2 sets of cards) they have the opportunity to develop their own story and sequence of events, independently of their familiarity with the actual version of the story.

Purpose and Application

The broader purpose of using the FTT is to help the therapist assess the child’s personality dynamics, offering information not just about single personality traits, but also about their interrelations. The FTT can be effectively employed for: (1) personality assessment for research purposes (developmental, cross cultural and longitudinal studies), (2) diagnostic evaluation of clinical studies (severe psychopathology or disturbance as an outcome of ephemeral traumatic or stressful events, and (3) evaluation of psychotherapeutic treatment.

Theoretical Background

The Theoretical background of the Fairy Tale Test consists of Psychoanalytic theories of personality (eg. ego analytic and object relations theories).

FTT Application


The FTT is individually administered and lasts approximately 45 minutes; administration should best be completed in one session. If the child is not familiar with any of the stories the administration is rescheduled, so that the child can have the opportunity to read the stories (or to be told the stories). Each set of cards is presented to the child in a standard sequence, one set at a time, whilst the rest of the cards are kept out of sight. Administration is in the form of a semi-structured interview and one of the standard questions is “what does each character feel and think?” The examiner notes the child’s possible comments, non-verbal behavior as well as the order in which the cards are chosen.

Sample Interview

Administrator: “Here are three dwarfs. I would like you to tell me what each one is thinking”.

Child: “This one here (points to Card 3) is thinking that he is going to meet Snow white on his way and he wants to wear his best clothes.

Administrator: “How does he feel?”

Child: “He feels happy because he thinks that when SW sees him, she will compliment him on his clothes”.

Administrator: “Good,… now can you choose one of the others and tell me what he is thinking”.


The Fairy Tale Test can be interpreted both quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitative interpretation includes the rating and coding. Most of the 30 variables are rated on a 1-3 point scale. Some variables are rated as positive (+1) or negative (-1).

FTT evaluates 30 personality variables that fall under 6 broad aspects of personality functioning:

Impulses (9)
Desires (3)
Needs (5)
Ego Functions (8)
Emotional States (3)
Object Relations (2)

Qualitative interpretation: we evaluate a large number of defense mechanisms, family dynamics (Oedipus complex, sibling rivalry, relationship with parents), Ego functioning (synthetic-integrative functioning, regulation and control of impulses, mastery and judgment and the quality of thought process) and the nature of anxiety. The raw scores of each variable are summed up reaching a total score. The total raw scores are converted into normalized T-scores (M=50, SD=10) to compare FTT variables and to correct for any irregularities in the distribution of the scales.

Psychometric Properties


The construct validity of the FTT was examined in two ways: (a) Internal validity: through the application of factor analysis and the comparison between FTT factor scores and defense mechanisms, and (b) External validity: through comparisons with structured questionnaires of personality dimensions and disorders such as the Child Behavior Checklist for parents (CBCL), the Beck Youth Inventories (BYI) and the Aggression Questionnaire (AQ). For further information regarding validity please refer to the respective chapter of the manual.


The retest reliabilities range from moderate to high for the majority of variables. For further information regarding reliability please refer to the respective chapter of the manual.


The initial standardization of the FTT was accomplished in Greece (in the wider Athens area) in 1989-1990 on a sample of children (760 “non-clinical” cases) aged 7-12 years and was re-standardized in 2001-2003. Re-standardization (873 “non-clinical” cases) was conducted in order to include an additional younger age group aged 6-7 years and further examine the psychometric properties of the test. This resulted in the revised manual of the test which included additional variables (Sense of Privacy, Instrumental Aggression and Need for Approval) in total 30. For further information regarding standardization please refer to the respective chapter of the manual.

The FTT has been standardized in France, Russia, Turkey, China, India, Germany, Italy, and Indonesia. It is also in the process of standardization in the US, Czech, Poland, Iran, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina and Colombia


The FTT has both advantages and drawbacks. Among its major assets are: that it provides a comprehensive evaluation of the child’s personality, as it assesses 30 personality variables; cards are presented to the child in sets of three (three versions of the same character) thus giving the child the opportunity to project different aspects of him/herself and finally, the symbolic nature of fairy tale characters facilitates the process of identification and projection. Some of its major drawbacks include the length of administration (approximately an hour); the intricacies of rating or scoring (ie. finding the character with whom the child identifies with e.g. aggressor or victim); because of the large number of variables the issue of overlapping is unavoidable (especially in the several types of motivational aggression).


Is the FTT difficult to administer?

No, provided the instructions for administration are read carefully. The key issue in administration is probing.

Is scoring the FTT difficult or time consuming?

As with most projective tests assessment of results is not an easy task. The level of difficulty depends on how familiar the clinician is with projective techniques. Efficient scoring of the FTT variables depends on the knowledge of psycho-dynamic theories of child development and personality, combined with practice and experience.

Can the FTT be administered to all children?

The major prerequisite for administering the FTT is that children are familiar with fairy tales and, in particular the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and one story involving giants. In the case that the examinee is not familiar with these stories he/she should be narrated the two stories and the administration should be rescheduled a week later.

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