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Family Nurture Intervention – Preschool

Mom and son

Children increasingly have emotional, behavioral and developmental difficulties. These problems are often identified between the ages of two and five. When children enter preschool, disruptive behavior makes learning difficult and creates social problems. Effective, scalable interventions must be developed and rigorously tested to meet this growing challenge.

Based on the Nurture Science Program’s research findings, Family Nurture Intervention in the NICU has been adapted to help preschool-aged children and their parents establish and maintain emotional connection to overcome emotional, behavioral and developmental problems.

Today, children and their parents often spend more time apart than together. Parents go to work while children go to daycare and preschool. They need to learn how to reconnect after each day apart. Otherwise, these separations can lead to emotional disconnect, which in turn contributes to parental distress and children’s disruptive behavior, emotional outbursts, and even developmental difficulties. When children and parents are emotionally connected they are both calm, and the children are ready to learn and relate to other people.

The Intervention

Family Nurture Intervention (FNI) for preschool-aged children and their parents is a group-based model led by trained nurture specialists, who support children and parents as they engage in close emotional communication that facilitates emotional connection.

The group-based approach allows FNI – Preschool to become a scalable community resource, so it can be available to families when they need it. It also helps build community and supportive relationships between families.

Ongoing Research

Two randomized control trials are underway to evaluate the efficacy and feasibility of Family Nurture Intervention – Preschool:

  • Norwalk Housing Authority, Norwalk, CT. Principal Investigator: Martha G. Welch, MD, DFAPA
  • Children’s Learning Centers (CLC), Fairfield County, CT.  Principal Investigator: Martha G. Welch, MD, DFAPA
Family Nurture Intervention for Preschool-Aged Children

The Columbia Nurture Science Program has been studying Family Nurture Intervention with preschool families to understand how supporting emotional connection can help address emotional and behavioral problems. Follow up assessments and data analysis are ongoing, but there has already been positive feedback from parents and Head Start staff.

How Emotional Connection Affects Our Hearts

Intuitively, we recognize that emotional connection touches the heart. New research findings bring together Polyvagal Theory and the Calming Cycle Theory to better explain how our bodies are affected by our experiences and our relationships.