Methods: The sample included 124 families with a young child between 6 and 30 months of age. Families were referred to receive Attachment Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC), a 10-week early childhood parenting program, through one of five child-serving agencies in one state. Families are referred for ABC based on level of parent-child relational protective factors and environmental stressors, as measured by the Household Strength and Strain Inventory (HSSI). The children in the sample were nearly evenly distributed by ethnicity (Hispanic= 43%) and gender (female= 50%). Caregivers completed a battery of pre- and post-test assessments. Existing stressors and relational protective factors were measured with the HSSI. Home and community environment was assessed with North Carolina Family Assessment Scale. Child functioning was measured with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire Social-Emotional. Caregiver functioning and attitudes towards child behavior were measured by Maternal Self-Efficiency Questionnaire and Infant Crying Questionnaire. Group comparisons by the child’s age, gender, and ethnicity were investigated through t-tests and trends will also be compared across time.
Results: The group comparison analyses found significant differences in the home and family environment, child functioning and caregiver functioning in the sample by child’s age, gender and ethnicity. In families with a child 12 months or younger, the home environment and self-sufficiency of the family were of more concern than for families with a child older than 12 months. However, parent and child functioning in families with younger children was rated higher than in families with older children. In families with Latino children, family health and safety and child functioning and well-being were all rated more positively than families of non-Latino children. Parent and child functioning in families with a female child was rated higher than in families with a male child.
Implications: The findings suggest though all participating families experienced risk due to the presence of significant stressors and low levels of protective parenting behaviors, there were still significant differences in the needs of the families. Assessment and intervention efforts with this population should be developed with this consideration in mind, recognizing that despite uniform screening and referral practices individualization of services must still occur, with emphasis on different areas depending on age or ethnicity of the child.