Handbook of Early Childhood Special Education

pp 37-55


Family-Centered Practices in Early Childhood Intervention

  • Carl J. DunstAffiliated withOrelena Hawks Puckett Institute Email author 
  • , Marilyn Espe-SherwindtAffiliated withFamily Child Learning Center, Akron Children’s Hospital and Kent State University

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This chapter includes an overview of the history of family-centered practices, the role family support principles and value statements have played in the evolution of a family-centered approach to working with families, the manner in which investigators have developed behavior indicators of family-centered practices, and how the use of family-centered practices have been found to be directly and indirectly related to child, parent-child, parent, and family outcomes. Research is reviewed which shows that family centeredness includes both relational (relationship-building) and participatory (competency-enhancing) dimensions as well as subsets of practices in each dimension. Examples of how family-centered practices have been used to implement different early childhood intervention practices are described. The discussion section of the chapter includes descriptions of the manner in which the relationships between family-centered practices and outcomes of interest are more likely to be mediated by other variables, the need for adherence information to be assured that practitioner behavior is consistent with the intent of family-centered practice indicators, and the potential yield from studies that employ an implementation science framework for investigating the relationship between the use of family-centered practices and the use of other types of early childhood intervention practices.


Families Parents Siblings Relational practices Participatory practices Children with disabilities Early intervention Early childhood special education Early childhood Special education Children with special needs