Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 8, pp 2526–2540 | Cite as

Improved Parental Emotional Functioning After Circle of Security 20-Week Parent–Child Relationship Intervention

  • Anna HuberEmail author
  • Catherine McMahon
  • Naomi Sweller
Original Paper


This study examined the effectiveness of the attachment-based Circle of Security 20-week intervention (COS) in improving parent emotional functioning in 83 families referred to a community clinical service with concerns about their young children’s behavior. Parenting stress and parent psychological symptoms were assessed pre and post intervention and mixed design repeated measures ANOVAs were used to assess change. Severity of presenting problems was considered as a moderator. Results showed clinically significant improvements in both aspects of parent emotional functioning, with changes accounted for by for those with more severe problems at the outset. Improvements for parents were associated with improved child behavior and more positive parent representations of the child and of parenting capacity. Findings suggest the intensive COS intervention is effective in reducing parenting stress and psychological symptoms in parents of children from aged 1–7 years. Questions remain about the mechanisms of change and the direction of effects.


Parenting stress Parent mental health Parent–child relationship Attachment-based intervention Circle of Security 



We wish to thank our collaborators, Marymead Child and Family Centre, staff of the Centre for Early Life Matters for their assistance in collecting the data, and all families who participated in the Circle of Security intervention who agreed to make their data available for research evaluating the effectiveness of the intervention. We would also express appreciation to all coders for their timely work.


This research was supported by ACT Health and Medical Research Council with a research development Grant (2010–11) and Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs with a Child Aware Grant (2012) to Marymead Child and Family Centre, Canberra, Australia.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Centre for Emotional HealthMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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