Emotion Regulation among Children in Foster Care Versus Birth Parent Care: Differential Effects of an Early Home-Visiting Intervention

J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2020 Aug;48(8):995-1006. doi: 10.1007/s10802-020-00653-4.


Children involved with Child Protective Services (CPS) often show worse emotion regulation than non-involved children, with downstream effects on adaptive functioning. The current study uses two randomized control trials, one conducted with foster caregivers and one conducted with birth parents, to investigate the longitudinal effects of caregiver type (foster versus birth parent) and a home-visiting parenting intervention on emotion regulation among young children referred to CPS. Participants were 211 children referred to CPS during infancy or toddlerhood, of whom 120 remained with their birth parents and 91 were placed in foster care. Caregivers were randomly assigned to receive Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up (ABC), a 10-session intervention designed to promote nurturing, sensitive, and non-intrusive caregiving, or a control intervention. Caregiver type moderated the effects of ABC on young children's observed anger dysregulation during a frustrating task at age 2 to 3 years. Among children remaining with their birth parents, children whose caregivers received ABC showed lower anger dysregulation than children whose caregivers received the control intervention. Children placed in foster care showed lower anger dysregulation than children with birth parents regardless of parenting intervention, and additionally showed higher adaptive regulation than children remaining with their birth parents. Adaptive regulation was not significantly associated with parenting intervention or the caregiver by intervention interaction. Results suggest that foster care placement may be protective for emerging emotion regulation skills among young children referred to CPS, and an attachment-based parenting intervention buffers risks of remaining in the home for young children's emotion dysregulation.

Keywords: Attachment; Child maltreatment; Emotion regulation; Foster care; Home-visiting intervention; Parenting.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caregivers
  • Child Protective Services
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delaware
  • Emotional Regulation*
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care / psychology*
  • House Calls*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • New Jersey
  • Object Attachment
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pennsylvania