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.
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).