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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland and Johns Hopkins Researchers Evaluate Attachment-based Parenting Intervention Designed to Improve Outcomes in Early Head Start

Faculty from the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found that a new evidence-based parenting intervention has great potential to improve the quality of services and promote optimal child and family outcomes in publicly funded programs such as Early Head Start (EHS).

The study, published in Infant Mental Health Journal, addresses EHS home visitors’ perceptions and experiences of a parenting intervention called the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC) program, the study said. The study is one of six that are part of an enhanced EHS model that adds an evidence-based or promising parenting intervention to EHS services.

ABC targets several key issues for young children who have experienced early maltreatment and/or disruptions in care, which has caused them to behave in ways that push their caregivers away.

One of the study’s authors, assistant professor Dr. Elizabeth Aparicio, is a new faculty member in the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s department of behavioral and community Health.

Dr. Aparicio’s co-authors are Dr. Brenda Jones-Harden, in the University of Maryland College of Education and Dr. Lisa J. Berlin, from the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland Baltimore and Dr. Allison L. West of Johns Hopkins.

The EHS program launched in 1994 and is designed to support child and family development in low-income families with infants and toddlers. The program’s services include parenting education, childcare, medical screenings and linking families to a range of health and social services in the community. About 43 percent of the families served meet with a home visitor each week for 90 minutes from the third trimester of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 3 years.

For the study, researchers chose 10 home visitors from four EHS programs in the mid-Atlantic region, located in both urban and suburban areas that served primarily Latino families.

“Among many other strategies designed to promote school readiness, Head Start Performance Standards emphasize the key role of supportive parent-child relationships,” the study said. “The ABC intervention was hypothesized to be a strong fit for EHS families because it was developed to promote emotionally responsive parenting, attachment security, and biological regulation for children who have experienced early adversity.”

The study, funded by the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that home visitors saw the intervention as positive and helpful for EHS families. The study also found challenges, including scheduling, and uncertainty regarding the goals of the intervention.

Implementing an Attachment-Based Parenting Intervention within Home-based Early Head Start: Home-Visitors’ Perceptions and Experiences” was published in Infant Mental Health Journal.