Prevention Science

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 129–140 | Cite as

Using Behavioral and Electrophysiological Measures to Assess the Effects of a Preventive Intervention: A Preliminary Study with Preschool-Aged Foster Children

  • Jacqueline BruceEmail author
  • Jennifer Martin McDermott
  • Philip A. Fisher
  • Nathan A. Fox


The current study was designed to explore the use of behavioral (i.e., accuracy and reaction times) and electrophysiological measures (i.e., event-related potentials) to assess the impact of a family-based preventive intervention for preschool-aged, maltreated children in foster care. These measures were recorded during a computerized flanker task designed to assess cognitive control and response monitoring. The sample was recruited from a larger randomized efficacy trial of Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care for Preschoolers (MTFC-P) and included foster children assigned to the intervention condition (n = 10), foster children assigned to a services-as-usual comparison condition (n = 13), and low-income, nonmaltreated community children (n = 11). The children’s behavioral and electrophysiological performance on the task was generally consistent with previous research with adults and older children. There were no group differences on the behavioral measures of cognitive control or response monitoring. Notably, however, group differences were observed on the electrophysiological measures of response monitoring. Specifically, the foster children who received services as usual were significantly less responsive to performance feedback about errors than the foster children who received the intervention and the nonmaltreated children. Applications of this methodology and implications of the results for future prevention research are discussed.


Foster care Intervention Event-related potentials Cognitive control Response monitoring 



Support for this research was provided by the following grants: MH059780 and MH065046, NIMH, U.S. PHS; MH046690, NIMH and ORMH, U.S. PHS; and DA017592, NIDA, NIH, U.S. PHS. The authors express thanks to the staff and families of the Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care for Preschoolers program, to Kristen Greenley for project management, to Peter Marshall and James Long for technical assistance, and to Matthew Rabel for editorial assistance.


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacqueline Bruce
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer Martin McDermott
    • 3
  • Philip A. Fisher
    • 1
  • Nathan A. Fox
    • 2
  1. 1.Oregon Social Learning Center and Center for Research to PracticeEugeneUSA
  2. 2.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.University of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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