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Enhancing executive functioning among toddlers in foster care with an attachment-based intervention

  • Teresa Lind (a1), K. Lee Raby (a2), E. B. Caron (a1), Caroline K. P. Roben (a1) and Mary Dozier (a1)...


Young children in foster care often experience adversity, such as maltreatment and lack of stability in early caregiving relationships. As a result, these children are at risk for a range of problems, including deficits in executive functioning. The Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up for Toddlers (ABC-T) intervention was designed to help foster parents behave in ways that promote the development of young children's emerging self-regulatory capabilities. Participants included 173 parent–toddler dyads in three groups: foster families that were randomly assigned to receive either the ABC-T intervention (n = 63) or a control intervention (n = 58), as well as low-risk parent–toddler dyads from intact families (n = 52). At a follow-up conducted when children were approximately 48 months old, children's executive functioning abilities were assessed with the attention problems scale of the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000) and a graded version of the Dimensional Change Card Sort developed for preschoolers (Beck, Schaefer, Pang, & Carlson, 2011). Results showed that foster children whose parents received the ABC-T intervention and low-risk children never placed in foster care had fewer parent-reported attention problems and demonstrated greater cognitive flexibility during the Dimensional Change Card Sort than foster children whose parents received the control intervention. These results indicate that an attachment-based intervention implemented among toddlers in foster care is effective in enhancing children's executive functioning capabilities.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Mary Dozier, Department of Brain and Psychological Sciences, University of Delaware, 108 Wolf Hall, Newark, DE 19716; E-mail:


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The project described was supported by National Institutes of Mental Health Grants R01MH052135 and R01MH074374 (to M.D.). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health. We thank the children and families who participated in the research and gratefully acknowledge the support of child protection agencies in Delaware.



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