Date of Award

Fall 2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Fox, Robert A.

Second Advisor

Edwards, Lisa M.

Third Advisor

Anderson, Rebecca

Abstract

Behavior problems are prevalent in toddlers and preschoolers and can cause significant distress for caregivers and adversely affect young children's development. Research has shown that participation in Parent-Child Therapy (PCT) programs significantly reduces childhood behavior problems while increasing positive parent and child behaviors. Yet past research has not attended to the role of treatment intensity on program effectiveness, and the question of whether greater doses of treatment are associated with stronger outcomes in PCT programs has yet to be explored. The present study investigated the impact of treatment intensity on outcomes in a treatment program for low-income children age five years and younger with externalizing behavior problems, the majority of whom also had a developmental disability. For the study, children who had significant behavior problems (i.e., met the clinical cut-off score on the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory intensity subscale) were randomly assigned to either a standard or an intensive level of treatment. Participants assigned to the intensive treatment level received 50% more treatment sessions than those allocated to the standard level of treatment. Sixty children (30 standard; 30 intensive) who completed the treatment program were included in the analyses. Results indicated that group classification (i.e., standard or intensity) did not affect child and caregiver outcomes differentially. Regardless of their level of treatment intensity, children and caregivers demonstrated significant positive change on all dependent measures. After treatment, participants in both groups showed decreases in child behavior problems and caregiver use of verbal and corporal punishment as well as increases in child compliance, caregiver nurturing, positive parent-child interactions and the quality of the parent-child relationship. These positive changes were maintained at a six week follow-up. Limitations of the study, suggestions for future research, and implications for clinicians are discussed.

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