Enhancing Parent-Child Interaction With a Prenatal Couple Intervention

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Purpose:To determine the effect of a prenatal couple group intervention on parent-child interaction postbirth.Design:Quasiexperimental study.Method:A nonrandomized convenience sample of treatment group (TG) couples (n = 35) who attended an additional prenatal three-class series was compared to a control group (CG) from childbirth education classes on measures of videotaped parent-child interaction using the NCATS tool. The intervention class series was based on individual and couple changes in meaning/identity, roles, and relationship/interaction during the transition to parenthood. It addressed mother/father roles, infant communication abilities, and patterns of the first 3 months of life in a mutually enjoyable, possibility-focused way.Results:T-tests and ANCOVA on NCATS scores between groups showed higher TG scores for mothers in sensitivity to cues, for fathers in social-emotional growth fostering, and for couple mean scores in social-emotional growth fostering, couple mean response to child distress, caregiver total, and caregiver-child total. Higher contingency scores were also found in the TG group. Fewer TG mothers and fathers fell below NCATS lower cutoff scores.Clinical Implications:Interventions that enhance mutual parent-child interaction through increased sensitivity to cues and responsiveness to infant needs or signals are important avenues for facilitating secure attachment, father and mother involvement, optimal development, and prevention of child abuse and neglect. The positive approach to this intervention invites couples to see themselves as developing with their infants over time, and to view their infants in new ways that will help develop satisfying, self-reinforcing patterns of interaction.

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