New report on interventions for children and caregivers

Ann Sofie Bergman
Ann Sofie Bergman, lead author of the report "Effects of attachment theory based interventions for young children and their caregivers".

Recently The Swedish Family Care Competence Centre published the report "Effects of attachment theory based interventions for young children and their caregivers". The lead author Ann-Sofie Bergman describes the report as important and hopeful.

Ann-Sofie Bergman works as researcher and senior lecturer at the institution of Department of Social Work at the Linnaeus University and has a long experience of working with support to children and families. This past year, she has worked for The Swedish Family Care Competence Centre, Nka, along with Elizabeth Hanson (research and education leader, Nka, and professor, Linnaeus University) with the report "Effects of attachment theory based interventions for young children and their caregivers".
– This report is about to do something early for the children, when they are young. Something that I think is really important. It has been a great and difficult process, while it has been worthwhile and informative, says Ann-Sofie Bergman.

"Something to take seriously"

The core of the report is the attachment of young children (0-5 years) and their caregivers (the mother is often the closest attachment person, but it can also be the father or another person, such as a foster parent). According to the attachment theory, different attachment patterns are developed depending on the caring and the relationship between the child and the caregiver. The attachment patterns have an impact on the child's trust and contact with other adults and children. A child that is given shelter and protection will most likely develop a secure attachment where the child feels that it can rely on their caregivers to attend to their needs of proximity, emotional support and protection. Secure attachment is considered to be the best attachment pattern. Anxious-ambivalent attachment is when the child feels separation anxiety when separated from the caregiver and does not feel increased sense of security and protection when the caregiver returns to the child. Another attachment pattern is disorganized attachment which is the attachment pattern that are most related to problems later in life. Research indicates that children living with failed care or parents with substance abuse or mental illness are at increased risk of developing disorganized attachment.
– Disorganized attachment is serious and is related to health problems. So it's really something to take seriously. Much is won in a health perspective if we can support the early attachment between the child and the caregiver, says Ann-Sofie Bergman.

Effects in focus

In an internationally perspective, many treatment methods have been developed in recent decades to support child interaction and attachment. The methods have been the key material in the report where Ann-Sofie Bergman and Elizabeth Hanson have reviewed over 2000 references to find out to what are the interventions in the field, which of them have been evaluated with focus on effects and what effects that has been noticed. The review resulted in 31 included references and 16 different methods with delimitation to interventions that is given by professionals and where the population constitute a risk group in an attachment perspective. The studies have been made in USA, Netherlands, Canada, Great Britain, Portugal and Sweden. The included studies aimed almost exclusively to mothers and their children.
– It was not a deliberately choice. It was showed that the studies that have been made almost exclusively aimed to mothers and their children. So, more research that includes fathers is needed, says Ann-Sofie Bergman.

"Hopeful results"

The results in the report points to several methods with significant effects on children's attachment and/or caregiver's ability to be sensitive and responsive. Thera are also studies that show effects in form of a decreased number of children with disorganized attachment. Besides effects for attachment and interaction many studies have shown positive effects on children's health and development and caregiver's health and experience of support and improved relations with the people in their immediate surroundings.
– It helps children and caregivers with their attachment. And we could also see effects on children's health. That is hopeful results. There were also directions where it is not just about changing the caregiver's behavior towards their children, but also to change their inner representations. This means that the caregiver's attachment patterns were changed. The caregivers become more secure. This is also an important and interesting result, says Ann-Sofie Bergman.

What should be done with this knowledge?

– It must be spread. To the professionals who works with this kind of issues. But also to decision makers so they understand the importance of prevention. To work early with children and caregivers. Also we need to do more Swedish studies, and evaluate the things that are already done, says Ann-Sofie Bergman.

Senast uppdaterad 2017-02-16 av Emil Svensson, ansvarig utgivare Lennart Magnusson