Parent–Child Interaction Therapy: A Transdiagnostic Intervention to Enhance Family Functioning

  • Larissa N. NiecEmail author


With more than 40 years of research supporting it, parent–child interaction therapy (PCIT) is a best-practice model for the treatment of conduct problems in children from 2 years and 6 months of age to 6 years and 11 months. PCIT contains the core therapeutic elements associated with larger effect sizes in the improvement of parenting practices and the reduction of children’s disruptive behaviors. Since the 1970s, however, our understanding of how PCIT works and the ways in which it can improve the well-being of children and families has expanded well beyond the treatment of child conduct problems. Through decades of rigorous evaluation, it has become clear that PCIT changes the negative patterns of interaction between parents and children—including the toxic interactions of abusive parents—and creates new patterns that are healthy, warm, and supportive. Strengthening parent–child relationships is associated with lower risk for child abuse and recently has even been shown to help buffer the negative effects of poverty on child brain development. Consistent with this developmental literature, PCIT and adaptations of PCIT have increasing support for their efficacy in the reduction of childhood anxiety, depression, and other forms of affect dysregulation. PCIT has also been shown to be an appropriate and effective intervention for children who have experienced trauma. This chapter provides an overview of the standard, evidence-based model of PCIT, including the key components of the approach, the foundational research that supports it, and the process of training for PCIT therapists.


PCIT Parent–child interaction therapy Transdiagnostic Developmental cascades Behavior parent training Parent–child relationship quality Attachment Treatment outcome Parenting Child-centered 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Children, Families, and Communities, Department of PsychologyCentral Michigan UniversityMount PleasantUSA

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