Effects of ABC on Parents - ABC Parenting
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Effects of ABC on Parents

Effects of ABC on Parents

 

The intervention appears to be powerful in changing children’s behaviors, and in sustaining change over time. This could only occur if parents are also changing. We posited parental sensitivity as the intervention mechanism.

 

Parental sensitivity

Sensitivity, or when a caregiver is able to notice, understand, and respond appropriately to a child’s cues, is especially important for children who have experienced early adversity. Immediately following the intervention and three years after the intervention was completed, ABC parents showed higher sensitivity (followed their children’s lead more), showed more positive affect (delight), were less detached, and were less intrusive than control intervention parents (Bick & Dozier, 2013). ABC parents looked nearly indistinguishable from a low-risk comparison group of parents.

 

These effects have been replicated with multiple samples, as well as in dissemination sites (e.g., Roben, Dozier, Caron & Bernard, 2017; Yarger, Hoye, & Dozier, 2016).

 

Parents’ secure base script knowledge

Harriet and Everett Waters (2006) proposed that individuals’ histories of experiences with attachment figures are consolidated and represented in memory as a “secure base script,” consisting of temporal-causal elements that characterize secure base interactions.

 

Parents assigned to the ABC intervention showed higher secure base script knowledge than parents assigned to the control intervention. Parents in the control group were significantly lower in secure base script knowledge than a low-risk comparison group; and the ABC and low-risk groups did not differ significantly (Raby, Zajac, and Dozier, in preparation). Further, parents’ secure base script knowledge scores were positively correlated with parental sensitivity scores during parent-child interaction tasks.

 

Parents’ brain activity

Differences in brain activity, assessed with event related potentials (ERPs), were seen between parents in the ABC intervention and those in the control intervention several years post-intervention. A previous study by Rodrigo (2010) had demonstrated that neglecting mothers failed to show differential neural activity when viewing different affective expressions of babies, despite being able to report seeing the faces accurately. We sought to replicate those results, but demonstrate that ABC mothers showed differentiated neural activity. As predicted, parents in the ABC intervention showed differentiated brain responses (N170 and LPP) to child facial affect whereas parents in the control intervention did not show such differentiated brain activity (Bernard, Simons, & Dozier, 2015).

 

We also tested associations between ERP responses and observed maternal sensitivity. Mothers who showed larger differences between ERP responses to emotional faces and neutral faces were more sensitive during their interactions with their children than mothers who showed smaller differences. These changes in maternal brain activity and behavior were observed approximately 3 years after parents participated in ABC.

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