Effects of a Foster Parent Training Program on Young Children’s Attachment Behaviors: Preliminary Evidence from a Randomized Clinical Trial
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Young children who enter foster care experience disruptions in care and maltreatment at a point when maintaining attachment relationships is a key, biologically based task. In previous research, we have found that young children experience challenges as they form attachments with new caregivers. They tend to push their new caregivers away, even though such children are especially in need of nurturing care. Further, many caregivers do not respond in nurturing ways when their children are distressed, which we have found is problematic for young children in foster care. We developed an intervention that is designed to help caregivers provide nurturance even when children do not elicit it, and even when it does not come naturally to them. This paper presents preliminary findings of the effectiveness of this intervention on children’s attachment behaviors. Forty-six children were randomly assigned to either the experimental intervention or to an educational intervention. For three consecutive days, attachment behaviors were reported across three distress-eliciting situations. Children whose parents had received the experimental intervention showed significantly less avoidance than children whose parents had received the educational intervention. These preliminary results suggest that the intervention is successful in helping children develop trusting relationships with new caregivers.
KeywordsFoster children Attachment Intervention
Support for this research was provided by NIMH R01 52135 and NIMH K02 74374 to the first author. We acknowledge the support of Philadelphia Department of Human Services and Delaware Division of Family Services; and caseworkers, foster families, birth families, and children at both agencies.
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