Action Team on Triadic Attachment and Child Health (ATTACH): Developing & Testing a Reflective Function Intervention
Summary of the Project
Parents suffering toxic stress (depression, addiction, violence) are unable to respond sensitively to their infants which interferes with forming secure parent-infant attachments necessary for healthy child development. Secure attachment is influenced by parental Reflective Function (RF); parents’ capacity to understand and thus regulate their own feelings/behaviour toward their child. Few RF interventions exist and focus only on mothers’ understanding of their own psychological caregiving representations but do not promote learning RF skills via practice, and ignore co-parents. Building on this research ATTACH has developed and pilot tested a RF intervention designed for mothers and co-parents; intended as an add-on program to existing parenting programs (Nurturing Parenting, Thera-play). We are currrently working to report our progress from the ATTACH pilot studies.
Methods. The ATTACH project is community-based, employing integrated knowledge transfer via partnering with Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS), an inner city agency serving vulnerable families. The sample drawn from CUPS Nurturing Parenting program did not cover RF. ATTACH completed two 12 week intervention pilot studies with 20 families.
Results. Results to be shared soon; developing strong therapeutic alliances between mothers and ATTACH facilitators was key to participant engagement, CUPS support, very low attrition and sustaining a nurturing environment.
Conclusion. Over 25% of Canadian children are vulnerable to cognitive and behavioral problems. Not surprising the World Health Organization has called for programs like ATTACH to address persistent discrepancies in child development to “close the gap”. Understanding associations between parental RF and (1) maternal sensitivity/responsiveness, attachment, and (2) child development fills an empirical gap and informs the effectiveness of community programs for at risk parents/children. ATTACH enhances ISPCAN’s vision of accelerating innovation to improve environments that support healthy child development.
Goals and Objectives
Short Term Goals
- Engage mothers in safe, supportive RF-focused sessions
- Engage mothers in practicing RF
- Engage mother’s co-parenting support (e.g. child’s father, mother’s partner, mother’s friend or family member) in supporting mothers’ practice of RF
- Grow the mothers’ capacity for RF
- Support mothers’ ability to be sensitive and responsive in interactions with child (and others)
- Support secure mother-infant attachment
- Support healthy development of infant
- Palix Foundation
- Alberta Centre for Child, Family & Community Research (ACCFCR)
- Anonymous Donor
- Harvard Frontiers of Innovation
- Calgary Foundation
Members of the Team
Name and Title: Dr. Nicole Letourneau (PI), Professor and Norlien/ACHF Research Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health (AllerGen Investigator)
Email Address: Nicole.Letourneau@ucalgary.ca
Name and Title: Dr. Martha Hart (Co-PI), Project Manager, Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org