Early preventive attachment-oriented psychotherapeutic intervention program with parents of a very low birthweight premature infant: results of attachment and neurological development

Attach Hum Dev. 2003 Jun;5(2):120-35. doi: 10.1080/1461673031000108504.


The birth of a very small preterm infant (< or = 1500 grams) can be a traumatizing experience for many parents. A developmental risk model is presented that is the background to an early attachment-oriented preventive psychotherapeutic intervention. This comprehensive parent-centered intervention program is composed of supportive group psychotherapy, attachment-oriented focal individual psychotherapy, a home visit and video-based sensitivity training. The intervention aims at improving parental coping, the process of attachment and parent-infant interaction. In a prospective longitudinal design mothers were randomly assigned to a control (N = 44) and an intervention group (N = 43) after preterm delivery. Results show that the percentage of secure (control vs. intervention group: 77.8% vs. 59.4%) and insecure (control vs. intervention group: 8.3% vs. 31.3% avoidant, 13.9% vs. 9.4% ambivalent) attachment quality in high-risk preterm infants is comparable to results from studies with term infants. There was no significant statistical difference in terms of quality of attachment of the preterm infants between the control group and the intervention group. However, only in the control group, impaired neurological development corresponded significantly with an insecure quality of attachment, but not in the intervention group, although there were significantly more neurologically impaired infants in the intervention group. This result is discussed as an effect of the intervention program.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • House Calls
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Mood Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Sensitivity Training Groups