Objective: The aim of the present investigation was to compare the effectiveness of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) with treatment as usual (TAU) in young children who were referred to regular child and adolescent mental health clinics for behavior problems.
Method: Eighty-one Norwegian families with two- to seven-year-old children (52 boys) who had scored ≥ 120 on the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI) were randomly assigned to receive either PCIT or TAU. The families were assessed 6 and 18 months after beginning treatment. Parenting skills were measured using the Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System (DPICS), and child behavior problems were measured using the ECBI and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).
Results: Linear growth curve analyses revealed that the behavior problems of children receiving PCIT improved more compared with children receiving TAU according to mother reports (ECBI d = .64, CBCL d = .61, both p < .05) but not according to father report. Parents also improved with regard to Do and Don't skills (d = 2.58, d = 1.46, respectively, both p ≤ .001). At the 6-month assessment, which often occurred before treatment was finished, children who had received PCIT had lower father-rated ECBI and mother-rated CBCL-scores (p = .06) compared with those who had received TAU. At the 18-month follow-up, the children who had received PCIT showed fewer behavior problems compared with TAU according to mother (d = .37) and father (d = .56) reports on the ECBI and mother reports on the CBCL regarding externalizing problems (d = .39). Parents receiving PCIT developed more favorable Do Skills (6-month d = 1.81; 18-month d = 1.91) and Don't Skills (6-month d = 1.46; 18-month d = 1.42) according to observer ratings on the DPICS compared with those receiving TAU.
Conclusion: Children receiving PCIT in regular clinical practice exhibited a greater reduction in behavior problems compared with children receiving TAU, and their parents' parenting skills improved to a greater degree compared with those receiving TAU.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NTC01085305.