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Testing the limits: Extending attachment-based intervention effects to infant cognitive outcome and parental stress

  • Karine Dubois-Comtois (a1) (a2), Chantal Cyr (a3) (a4), George M. Tarabulsy (a5) (a6), Diane St-Laurent (a1), Annie Bernier (a7) and Ellen Moss (a3)...


Using a sample of 41 infants and toddlers (21 interventions, 20 controls) who were neglected or at serious risk for neglect, this randomized clinical trial examined the efficacy of a parent–child attachment-based video-feedback intervention on parental sensitivity, parental stress, and child mental/psychomotor development. Results showed that following the 8-week intervention, scores for maternal sensitivity and child mental and psychomotor development were higher in the intervention group than in the control group. The intervention appears to have no effect on self-reports of stress. All parents report lower levels of stress postintervention; however, when defensive responding is not considered (i.e., extremely low score of parental stress), parents in the control group report somewhat lower scores, raising questions as to the significance of this finding. Considering the small nature of our sample, replication of the present results is needed. Nevertheless, the present findings contribute to the burgeoning literature suggesting that the early attachment relationship provides an important context that influences developmental outcome in different spheres and raises questions as to how such intervention strategies may or may not affect the subjective experience of parenting.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Karine Dubois-Comtois, Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, C.P. 500, Trois-Rivières, QC G9A 5H7, Canada; E-mail:


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This research was supported by a grant from the Public Safety Canada's National Crime Prevention Centre in collaboration with the Quebec Minister of Public Security. We thank our collaborators, les Centres Jeunesse de Lanaudière, and the clinical workers for their invaluable assistance in the research project.



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