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Behavioral Parent Training in Infancy: A Window of Opportunity for High-Risk Families

Abstract

To meet the mental health needs of infants from high-risk families, we examined the effect of a brief home-based adaptation of Parent–child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) on improvements in infant and parent behaviors and reductions in parenting stress. Participants included 60 infants (55 % male; average age of 13.5 ± 1.31 months) who were recruited at a large urban primary care clinic and were included if their scores exceeded the 75th percentile on a brief screener of early behavior problems. Most infants were from an ethnic or racial minority background (98 %) and lived below the poverty line (60 %). Families were randomly assigned to receive the home-based parenting intervention or standard pediatric primary care. Observational and parent-report measures of infant and parenting behaviors were examined at pre- and post-intervention and at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Infants receiving the intervention were more compliant with maternal commands at the 6-month follow-up and displayed lower levels of externalizing and internalizing behavior problems across post and follow-up assessments compared to infants in standard care. Mothers receiving the intervention displayed a significantly higher proportion of positive and lower proportion of negative behaviors with their infant during play compared to mothers in the standard care group. There were no significant group differences for parenting stress. Results provide initial evidence for the efficacy of this brief and home-based adaptation of PCIT for infants. These findings highlight the benefit of identification and intervention as early as possible to promote mental health for infants from high-risk families.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a career development award from the National Institute of Mental Health to the first author (K23MH085659). We thank Drs. Alice Carter, Paulo Graziano, and Jeremy Pettit for their consultation and feedback on this manuscript and all participating families for their commitment to our research program.

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Correspondence to Daniel M. Bagner.

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Bagner, D.M., Coxe, S., Hungerford, G.M. et al. Behavioral Parent Training in Infancy: A Window of Opportunity for High-Risk Families. J Abnorm Child Psychol 44, 901–912 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-015-0089-5

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Keywords

  • Infancy
  • Behavior problems
  • Parent training
  • Early intervention
  • Risk