Child maltreatment presents threats to child developmental processes, including long-term maladjustment and development of psychopathology. Cicchetti, Rogosch, and Toth’s (2006) study examines the effectiveness of two preventive interventions: psychosocial parenting education (PPI) and infant-parent psychotherapy (IPP). Based on the theory that secure attachment is derived from parental knowledge and skills, PPI involves a series of psychoeducation-focused home visits with mothers to improve parenting skills, increase mothers’ knowledge of child development, and enhance coping and social support skills. IPP is based on attachment theory and includes an exploration of the parent-child relationship through therapy. The hypothesis that PPI or IPP interventions will be most effective for ameliorating the effects of maltreatment of infants is explored in this study. The study sampled mothers and their infants in maltreating families (n=137). Subjects were randomly assigned to one of three cohorts: (1) psychosocial parenting education (PPI), (2) infant-parent psychotherapy (IPP), or (3) community standard (CS). A normative comparison (NC) group of non-maltreated infants and their mothers (n=52), with similar demographics to the intervention group, was also included. Using validity tested measures, the authors found that mothers and children in the PPI and IPP groups showed greater increases in secure attachment than mothers and children in the CS and control groups. This study supports evidence that preventive intervention programs can alter attachment organization and ameliorate the negative developmental consequences of maltreatment.
As compared to results from the CS group, the authors provide evidence that the PPI and IPP interventions result in greater increases of secure attachment in maltreating families. However, the non-maltreating control group varied greatly from the maltreating group, with maltreating mothers reporting higher rates of maltreatment in their own childhoods, more insecure relationships with their mothers, more maladaptive parenting attitudes, more parenting stress, and lower family support. Similarly, despite trying to maintain uniform adherence to the therapeutic intervention, the therapy was not completely standardized, because the intervention used different therapists. Lastly, the intervention groups were actively pursued to follow the therapy schedule, which is not commonly done in treatment modalities such as the CS group.
The authors attempt to eliminate any self-selection bias, by seeking out maltreating families rather than the families seeking to be enrolled in the study.
Cicchetti, D., Rogosch, F.A., and Toth, S.L. (2006). Fostering secure attachment in infants in maltreating families through preventive interventions. Development and Psychopathology, 18, 623-649.