Academic journal article Journal of Early Childhood and Infant Psychology

Attachment Intervention Programs: A Guide for School Psychologists

Academic journal article Journal of Early Childhood and Infant Psychology

Attachment Intervention Programs: A Guide for School Psychologists

Article excerpt

School psychologists hold increasingly expanding roles in American school systems (Fagan, 2002). Once limited to intelligence testing and certifying children for special education classes, today they consult with teachers regarding behavior problems, monitor the academic skill development of low achieving students, and serve as a mental health resource for school staff and children alike. One recent area of role expansion is services for preschool children. School psychologists are often called upon to conduct readiness evaluations, design preventive interventions, and train preschool teachers and parents in behavior management strategies. In addition, school psychologists have started to focus on improving the social and emotional adjustment of young children (ages 0-5) by using a conceptual framework that is child-centered, partnership-based, and population-focused (Fantuzzo, McWayne, & Bulotsky, 2003). As Schakel (1988) noted, given the importance of the developmental changes that occur during the early childhood years, school psychologists have good reason to be interested in including young children in their scope of practice.

School psychologists are often involved with young children suspected of having disabilities and their families. For these young children, federal policy (P.L. 99-457, amended by P.L. 102-119) mandates assessment and early intervention services (Sandall, Hemmeter, Smith, & McLean, 2004). As a result, school psychologists determine eligibility services, link children and families to appropriate early intervention programs, and verify whether intervention programs are meeting the needs of young children and their families (Greenwood, Luze, & Carta, 2002). Furthermore, a focus on young children was identified as an important theme for future work in the 2002 Conference on the Future of School Psychology (Dawson et al., 2003/2004).

A major issue in young children's development involves the formation of foundational emotional relationships, attachments, with parents and other important adults (Thompson, 1998). In the present paper, we review the nature and diversity of interventions that have been designed to help parents to improve their children's attachment security. Our purpose is not to train school psychologists to deliver attachment interventions, but to give personnel who provide psychological services to preschoolers enough information to speak knowledgably to primary caregivers about some of the kinds of intervention programs available, and to support children who have participated in these programs. We begin by briefly reviewing attachment theory and associated research, focusing on the relationships between attachment insecurity and disorganization and psychopathology in children and adults. We then describe general issues in attachment interventions and give details concerning three intervention programs. We conclude with a discussion of the school psychologist's role in enhancing attachment security.

The Origins and Consequences of Individual Differences in Attachment Security

Basic Concepts in Attachment Theory

Modern theories of attachment have their roots in psychodynamic and ethological traditions. John Bowlby, widely recognized as the founder of modern attachment theory, combined Freud's view on the potential of early experiences to exert long-lasting effects on behavior with ethological insights on the fundamental utility and survival value of relationships (Sroufe, 1986). Bowlby noted that human infants are dependent upon caregivers for relatively protracted periods of time relative to other species, and argued that enduring emotional relation ships with caregivers evolved to promote survival in this context. His conceptualization of attachment also recognized the active contribution of children to relationships with their caregivers (Sroufe, 1986), and as such, viewed attachment as fundamentally dyadic in nature.

Variations in attachment organization have been examined in a variety of contexts, but Mary Ainsworth's Strange Situation remains the most well-known and influential in the field. …

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