Maltreatment can impact the earliest stages of development during which time patterns of emotion regulation and attachment begin to be established (Carlson, Cicchetti, Barnett, & Braunwald, 1989b; Cicchetti, Ganiban, & Barnett, 1991). These disruptive patterns are problematic for early moral development and are likely to play a role in the development of conduct disorders (Aber & Cicchetti, 1984). Thus, maltreated children are clearly in a high-risk situation. To examine emotion regulation, internal representations of relationships, and early moral development, the use of a play narrative story stem technique (Bretherton, Ridgeway, & Cassidy, 1990; Buchsbaum & Emde, 1990) with maltreated children and a nonmaltreated disadvantaged comparison group of children is described. Representative case examples from each group are used to illustrate the effectiveness of this technique for eliciting themes about family relationships, conflicts, and their resolution or lack thereof as well as defenses and coping styles. The potential usefulness of this paradigm for clinical assessment and intervention are discussed.