College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-22-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Karen S. Budd, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Antonio Polo, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Patrick Fowler, Ph.D.


Children in foster care are more likely to face difficulties in forming a secure attachment relationship and to have problem behaviors than children not in foster care (Dozier & Rutter, 2008). Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based treatment that focuses on strengthening the attachment relationship between the child and the caregiver, as well as reducing the number and intensity of behavior problems. Although PCIT is based on attachment theory, very few studies have examined the effect of PCIT on child-parent attachment or examined the effect of PCIT on attachment in foster care families. This study extends prior work and uses a randomized design to examine the effect of the relationship-building phase (CDI) compared to the relationship-building plus discipline-strengthening phases (CDI plus PDI) of PCIT on child-parent attachment, child behavior problems, parent mood, parental stress, and treatment satisfaction with non-clinically referred foster families. Twenty seven foster families were randomly assigned to either the CDI phase only PCIT treatment condition, the CDI plus PDI phase PCIT treatment condition, or the waitlist bibliotherapy (PCIT: Anticipatory Guidance) condition. All assessments and services were provided in the home. Results from the 21 families that completed the study indicated that children who were in the CDI plus PDI treatment group had a more secure relationship with their foster caregiver at post-treatment than children in the CDI only treatment group. Foster children in the PCIT treatment groups were reported to have fewer behavior problems at post-treatment than children in the waitlist bibliotherapy group. Parents in the CDI only treatment group had somewhat lower levels of parenting stress at post-treatment than parents in the CDI plus PDI treatment group. There were no differences in parental depression at post-treatment between the groups. This study provides further evidence to demonstrate that PCIT is effective with foster care populations and provides preliminary evidence about the differing effects of the two PCIT phases on foster parent and foster child outcomes