|TAT (Thematic Apperception Test) Card|
While parents may not figure in your story, you might want to think about what sort of people they were and how your characters were raised. Picture the home environment, the neighborhood, the social circle. Were they a family of wealthy professionals, immigrants struggling to integrate, solidly middle class with a dog and a minivan? How were your characters schooled? Disciplined? Did their parents cheer them on at sports events or were they always too busy?
There are a few psychological tests which can be used for children as young as 7 or 8 years old to examine perceptions, attitudes and experiences. They can provide insight into a child's home life, relationships with parents and other family members, and reveal some of the child's internal thought processes, cognitive abilities, strengths and fears.
TAT (Thematic Apperception Test)
32 picture cards are used which include male, female, and gender-neutral figures. (There's also a blank one.) The subject is asked to tell a story for each picture including what led up to the event shown, what is happening in the picture, what the characters are thinking/feeling, and how the story ends. (I was given this test when I was in 5th grade and I vividly remember the picture at the top of the post. I thought it was really creepy. I still do.)
Bricklin Perceptual Scales
This test is often used by professionals involved with child custody issues. The BPS can be administered to children as young as 6 years old. It assesses the child’s perception of his or her parents in four areas: Competence, Follow-up Consistency, Supportiveness (warmth and empathy), and Possession of Admirable Personality Traits.
There are 64 questions, 32 about the mother and 32 about the father. Each question is printed on a card. On the back of each card is a response choice line from “Not So Well" to "Very Well". The test administrator reads the question, and the child gives a verbal answer. Then the child is asked the same question, worded differently, and the child answers by punching a hole in the card somewhere along the response line. This second, non-verbal response is considered the more important of the two answers.
HTP (House-Tree-Person) Test
This is a simple projective test. The subject is given a blank piece of paper and asked to draw a house, a tree and a person. Once he is finished, he is asked to explain it.
So, have you ever spent time thinking about a character's upbringing even though it wasn't addressed in the story?