Program

Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up (ABC)

Feb 23, 2010

OVERVIEW

Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up (ABC) is a home-based, foster parent skills-training program that aides parents in providing a nurturing environment for their foster children. In an evaluation of the program, 60 foster children and their parents were randomly assigned to receive one of the following two interventions: 1) the ABC intervention, or 2) the Developmental Education for Families (DEF) intervention. Results indicated that children receiving the DEF intervention had significantly higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, post-intervention than children receiving the ABC intervention. Additionally, parents in the ABC intervention group reported fewer behavioral problems for toddlers than infants, whereas parents in the DEF group did not report any differences in behavior problems across the two age groups. However, intervention type did not significantly impact behavioral problems, even when only considering toddlers in the analyses.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Foster parents and their foster children between the ages of 0 and 5 years old.

Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up (ABC) is a foster parent skills-training program that focuses on preventing problem behaviors typically found in foster children. The program focuses on a child’s dysregulation, which can be defined as the breakdown in a system’s normal functioning, or a chronic failure of the system to function in normal ways. ABC targets dysregulation by helping foster care parents use nurturance to create environments that enhance regulatory capabilities.

The intervention attempts to enhance child regulatory capacities using three techniques: 1) Helping caregivers learn to reinterpret children’s alienating behaviors, 2) helping caregivers over-ride their own issues that interfere with their ability to provide nurturing care, and 3) helping caregivers provide an environment that helps children develop regulatory capabilities.

The intervention consists of 10 weekly sessions. Sessions include both foster parents and their foster children and are led by a trained paraprofessional. Each session is highly interactive and typically involves the parent and trainer discussing concepts, practicing learned techniques with his or her baby, and discussing successes and failures in the use of concepts learned in prior weeks.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Dozier, M., Peloso, E., Lindhiem, O., Gordon, M.K., Manni, M., Sepulveda, S., & Ackerman, J. (2006). Developing evidence-based interventions for foster children: An example of a randomized clinical trial with infants and toddlers. Journal of Social Issues, 62,767-785.

Evaluated population:60 foster children between the ages of 0 and 3 years old and their foster parents served as the sample for this evaluation. Half of the children were boys, and half were girls. The racial breakdown for the sample was 63% African-American, 32% White, and 5% biracial. (A sample of 104 “typically developing” children also served as a non-experimental comparison group for the children in foster care.)

Approach: The children and their parents were randomly assigned to receive either the ABC intervention or a control intervention called the Developmental Education for Families (DEF) intervention. The DEF is an intervention designed to enhance cognitive, and especially linguistic, development. In contrast, participants receiving the ABC intervention were trained in helping children develop regulatory capabilities. Participants in both intervention groups attended 10, one-hour long, weekly sessions with trainers who had at least five years of clinical experience. (Children in the typically developing comparison group did not receive an intervention.)

Parents collected their children’s saliva samples two times per day for two days post-intervention. Levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the saliva samples were assessed by researchers. Parents also assessed their children’s problem behaviors daily for three days post-intervention by completing a child behavior reporting survey.

Results: Results indicated that children receiving the DEF intervention had significantly higher cortisol levels post-intervention than children receiving the ABC intervention. (Additionally, cortisol levels for children in the ABC group were statistically similar to those of children in the typically developing comparison group.) Furthermore, parents in the ABC intervention group reported fewer behavioral problems for toddlers than infants, whereas parents in the DEF group did not report any differences in behavior problems across the two age groups. However, intervention type did not significantly impact behavioral problems, even when only considering toddlers in the analyses.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Information on implementing this program can be obtained from:

Mary Dozier, Ph.D.

University of Delaware

114 Wolf Hall

Newark, DE 19716

Phone: (302)
831-8801; Fax (302) 831-3645

E-mail: mdozier@psych.udel.edu

References:

Dozier, M., Peloso, E., Lindhiem, O., Gordon, M.K., Manni, M., Sepulveda, S., & Ackerman, J. (2006). Developing evidence-based interventions for foster children: An example of a randomized clinical trial with infants and toddlers. Journal of Social Issues, 62,767-785.

KEYWORDS: Early Childhood (0-5), Infants (0-12 months), Toddlers (12-36 months), Children (3-11 years), Home-Based, Mentoring, Tutoring, Parent or Family Component, Foster Children, Behavioral Problems, Mental Health, Stress, Parent-Management Skills, Life Skills Training, Family Conflict, Family Therapy, Black or African American, White or Caucasian, Cognitive Development

Program information last updated on 2/23/10.

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