Connect - a programme for parents of adolescents with aggressive, violent and antisocial behaviour

At a glance

Country of origin: 
Canada
Added to registry: 
Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 09:30

Target group: 
12-18 years
Age group: 
11-14 years
15-18/19 years
Programme setting(s): 
Community
Family
School
Level(s) of intervention: 
Targeted intervention

The Connect programme is a 10-week manualised attachment-focused programme for parents (or other caregivers) of adolescents who engage in aggressive, violent and antisocial behaviour. Each session of the Connect programme begins with the introduction of an attachment principle that captures a key aspect of the parent-teen relationship and relates to common parenting challenges. Experiential activities, including role-play and reflection exercises, are used to illustrate each principle and build parenting knowledge and skill. More specifically, the programme focuses on the development of skills related to the core components of secure attachment: parental sensitivity; partnership and mutuality; parental reflective function; and dyadic affect regulation.

Keywords: 
No data

Overview of results from the European studies

Last reviewed: 
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Evidence rating: 
Likely to be partially beneficial
Studies overview: 

The programme has been evaluated in one quasi-experimental study in Italy, one quasi-experimental study in Sweden comparing the intervention to a behavioural parent training programme and one randomised controlled trial (RCT) in Sweden.

The Italian study, involving children with a mean age of 12.4 years, found a statistically significant effect favouring the intervention on self-reported frequencies of beer and wine consumption but not on self-reported tobacco or alcohol use. There was no intervention effect on parent outcomes or parent-reported child behaviour problems.

The quasi-experimental study in Sweden, involving children aged 8-12 years with behavioural problems, found that there was either no statistically significant difference between conditions or that the other programme performed better than Connect in improving parent-reported child behaviour and parent outcomes (stress, competence and discipline strategies).

The Swedish RCT, involving children aged 3-12 years, found statistically significant effects favouring the intervention on some measures of parent-reported child behaviour problems (intensity of specified behaviours, and whether the behaviours are problematic) but not on others (inattention, hyperactivity or oppositional behaviour). There were also statistically significant effects favouring the intervention for some self-reported parent outcomes (stress, depression, competence and positive rewards).

References of studies
Countries where evaluated: 
Canada
Italy
Sweden

Contact details: 

Dr Marlene M. Moretti, PhD
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
Canada
Phone: 1 778-782-3604

Protective factor(s): 
Family: attachment to and support from parents
Xchange Risk factor(s): 
Family: family conflict
Family: family management problems
Outcomes targeted: 
Alcohol use
Use of illicit drugs
Violence
Other behaviour outcomes
Description of programme: 

The Connect programme is a 10-week manualised attachment-focused programme for parents (or other caregivers) of adolescents who engage in aggressive, violent and antisocial behaviour. Each session of the Connect programme begins with the introduction of an attachment principle that captures a key aspect of the parent-teen relationship and relates to common parenting challenges. Experiential activities, including role-play and reflection exercises, are used to illustrate each principle and build parenting knowledge and skill. More specifically, the programme focuses on the development of skills related to the core components of secure attachment: parental sensitivity; partnership and mutuality; parental reflective function; and dyadic affect regulation.

The programme begins with an information night where parents are provided with information on the focus and format of the Connect programme and are invited to participate as partners in programme development. This is followed by nine sessions, each focused on a principle and a set of learning objectives. Sessions include a didactic component (generally the first 10 minutes) and hands-on learning exercises (approximately 40 minutes).

During the didactic portion of each session, group leaders present an attachment principle that helps parents understand attachment issues related to child development and to challenging interactions with their children and teenagers. Each session builds on principles covered in previous sessions, which are revisited over the course of the programme and consolidated in the final session.

The manual provides important background information for group leaders on key concepts and issues in attachment theory in relation to each principle. Leaders learn this material in training and are encouraged to prepare for each session by carefully reviewing background information and additional readings as necessary. Connect provides ongoing updates to trained and certified group leaders, including on new papers on theory, research and clinical practice, to promote continued learning and development.

In each session, after the didactic component is completed, parents engage in hands-on learning exercises, including role-play and reflective exercises. These exercises are integral to each session as they facilitate parents’ understanding of attachment principles and help parents develop the skills of recognising, reflecting on and responding to their child’s attachment needs.

Role-play exercises enact parent-child interactions to illustrate key issues and explore alternative parenting options, their risks and their benefits. Group leaders refrain from telling parents that there is a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ way to parent children; rather, they encourage parents to see the costs and benefits of different parenting strategies, particularly as they relate to their needs, their child’s needs and the quality of their relationship. This minimises parental blame and defensiveness and maximises parental motivation and openness in relation to developing new skills.

Group leaders take responsibility for the role-play exercises in early sessions; however, as parents become more comfortable, they are invited to participate in role-play exercises. This provides them with first-hand experience of how their child might feel and respond in different interaction contexts and how they might feel and respond as parents in these situations.

Each role-play exercise is followed by exercises to help parents attend to the behaviour of the child and themselves, their feelings, thoughts and underlying needs. Such activities help parents slow down their reactions to problem child behaviour, modulate their own feelings and thoughts, and consider the inner world and needs of their child. Reflection exercises also help parents to understand their reactions to problem child behaviour, modulate their own feelings and thoughts, and consider the inner world and needs of their child. Furthermore, these exercises also help parents to understand their reactions to problem behaviour in relation to their own experiences as teenagers and in their current relationships. They consider their past experiences of conflict, what needs they had as adolescents and the impact of others’ responses to them.

Practising sensitivity, empathy and mindfulness helps parents realise that they have the option to respond in ways that set clear limits, balance their own and their child’s needs, and strengthen their relationship with their child. Connect exercises help parents develop the necessary skills to navigate conflict without turning to coercion and escalating aggression.

Parents are provided with handouts summarising the key points and the take-home message for each session.

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