Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Promoting Positive Interactions in the Classroom: Adapting Parent-Child Interaction Therapy as a Universal Prevention Program

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Promoting Positive Interactions in the Classroom: Adapting Parent-Child Interaction Therapy as a Universal Prevention Program

Article excerpt


The adaptation of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), an empirically-supported dyadic parent training intervention, to a preschool setting may provide an opportunity to enhance the well-being of both teachers and children by improving the teacher-child relationship and supplying teachers with effective tools for behavior management. The current article describes the development and implementation of a Teacher-Child Interaction Training (TCIT) program, based on the PCIT model, to a preschool setting serving primarily low-income, urban, ethnic minority youth. We discuss the rationale for applying PCIT as a prevention program, prior research on adaptations of PCIT to educational settings, application of community psychology principles and strategies in adapting PCIT to the classroom, core TCIT program components, evaluation of effectiveness, issues in sustainability, and resources for successfully implementing the program.

Key words: Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Teacher-Child Interaction Training, community, teacher training, preschool, disruptive behavior


Early aggressive and oppositional behaviors, if left untreated, are likely to persist over time or develop into more severe and potentially debilitating behavioral or emotional problems (Loeber, Green, Keenan, & Lahey, 1995; Nock, Kazdin, Hiripi, & Kessler, 2007). School-based research with children who are at-risk for developing externalizing problems or who are already displaying these behaviors indicates that early intervention can result in more positive outcomes both immediately and long-term (e.g. Bay-Hinitz & Wilson, 2005; Boisjoli, Vitaro, Lacourse, Barker, & Tremblay, 2007; McGoey, DuPaul, Eckert, Volpe, & Van Brakle, 2005). Further, preventive interventions in preschool and kindergarten classrooms have the potential to enhance psychosocial functioning for a broader group of children, potentially bolstering their resiliency later in life (Domitrovich, Cortes, & Greenberg, 2007; Niles, Reynolds, & Roe-Sepowitz, 2008).

Many empirically supported interventions have consisted of multi-component programs involving parent training, teacher training, child skills training, and/or mental health support (e.g., Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 2007; Raver et al., 2009; Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Stoolmiller, 2008). Fewer empirically supported preschool interventions have focused only on teacher training, and these often have targeted children already identified with significant behavior problems (e.g., Shernoff & Kratochwill, 2007), limiting the conclusions that can be drawn about their utility for universal prevention. Despite evidence that negative teacher-child relationships are related to children's later behavior problems (Brendgen, Wanner, Vitaro, Bukowski, & Tremblay, 2007), these relationships are rarely a central focus of interventions. The model described in this paper offers an approach to universal prevention that emphasizes in-vivo coaching in skills designed to strengthen teacher-child relationships. Further, the model is derived from an evidence-based parent training program for children with clinically indicated behavior problems, so it could be used in tandem with this parent training intervention when indicated by the child's behavioral needs.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

PCIT is a manualized, evidence-based practice for children with disruptive behavior disorders ages two through seven (Brinkmeyer & Eyberg, 2003; Eyberg & Child Study Lab, 1999; Hembree-Kigin & McNeil, 1995). Its principles have been successfully applied in the treatment of many childhood disorders, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant/conduct disorder, and separation anxiety disorder (Eisenstadt, Eyberg, McNeil, Newcomb, & Funderburk, 1993; Nixon, Sweeney, Erickson, & Touyz, 2004; Pincus, Eyberg, & Choate, 2005; Schuhmann, Foote, Eyberg, & Boggs, 1998). …

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