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April 2014Vol. 15, No. 4Study Examines Attachment-Based Parenting

The Infant Mental Health Journal recently published findings from a research study that examined the feasibility and efficacy of supplementing a new mother's residential substance-abuse treatment with a brief and rigorous attachment-based parenting program. The randomized trial served as a pilot study and was inspired by previous literature documenting the high levels of interrelatedness between substance abuse and problematic parenting.

The study randomly assigned 21 new mothers receiving residential substance-abuse treatment to either participate in the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC) parenting program or to a control group that did not receive this extra training. The ABC program consists of 10 home-based sessions delivered by a parenting coach. The program targets three specific behaviors, including nurturance, following the child's lead, and reducing frightening caregiver behavior.

All of the mothers participated in a postintervention parenting observation. During these assessments, researchers found that mothers receiving the ABC treatment program displayed significantly more positive behaviors toward their infants than mothers in the control group.

Results regarding the feasibility of implementing the ABC program were also positive. Researchers found that the residential treatment programs welcomed the opportunity to provide parenting programs to their mothers and that the mothers themselves were enthusiastic about participating. While the results from both the efficacy and feasibility aspects of this study are promising, results should be interpreted with caution given the small sample size.

"Promoting Supportive Parenting in New Mothers With Substance-Use Problems: A Pilot Randomized Trial of Residential Treatment Plus an Attachment-Based Parenting Program," by Lisa Berlin, Meghan Shanahan, and Karen Carmody, Infant Mental Health Journal, 35(1), 2013, is available here: