For Clinicians

There are millions of families and children suffering from emotional, behavioral, and developmental problems, and current treatment strategies are not effectively meeting the needs of those families. The Nurture Science Program explores the biological and behavioral underpinnings of nurture and documents the effects of nurture as the basis for possible interventions.

Recently published results from a new, randomized, controlled clinical trial point to hospital-based family nurture or optimal nurturing interactions as powerful forces in helping to prevent or overcome emotional, behavioral, and developmental problems in prematurely born infants. The clinical trials performed by the Nurture Science Program reveal how the establishment and maintenance of optimal parent-child interactions can affect the psychological and behavioral development of children.

The results show that babies receiving Family Nurture Intervention had robust increases in infant brain activity (by electroencephalographic power) when the infants reached full term age. Increases up to 36% were observed in the frontal polar region in the intervention group, as compared to the control group.

The electroencephalographic findings in the Family Nurture Intervention study are highly significant because other researchers have reported preterm infants to have deficits related to frontal polar function. In addition, still others have found that infants with greater power in this region have improved cognitive function, language, and attention to regulate and manage emotions at older ages.

Depression in mothers of preterm infants has been identified as a major problem. The results of this study show that the Family Nurture Intervention mothers benefited from the intervention. Maternal care giving behavior was enhanced while in the NICU, and levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms were reduced at four months post discharge.

The purpose of the study was to determine the efficacy of the Family Nurture Intervention in the neonatal intensive care unit. The intervention includes several nurture activities that are designed to overcome the negative effects of maternal separation routinely associated with preterm birth. The main goal of the intervention is to facilitate an emotional connection between mother and infant so that contact is pleasurable and calming, as opposed to unpleasant and stressful.

Implementing Family Nurture Intervention in Hospitals and Medical Practices

Multi-site replication studies are currently being set up at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City and Children’s Hospital at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. These studies will be followed by effectiveness trials in the same hospitals to determine if this intervention can be effectively applied to all babies in NICUs within the next few years.

Our hope is that three to four years from now the Nurture Science Program will be ready to promote Family Nurture Intervention in NICUs around the country and help more children and families.

Need more information?

If you'd like more information about implementing family nurture intervention therapies in your practice please contact us.