An evaluation of parent-child interaction therapy with and without motivational enhancement to reduce attrition

Haley J Webb, Rae Thomas, Leanne McGregor, Elbina Avdagic, Melanie J Zimmer-Gembeck

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Although many interventions for child externalizing behavior report promising outcomes for families, high attrition prior to program completion remains a problem. Many programs report dropout rates of 50% or higher. In this trial we sought to reduce attrition and improve outcomes by augmenting a well-known evidence-based intervention, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), with a 3-session individual motivational enhancement component. Participants were 192 Australian caregivers (91.7% female; Mage = 34.4 years) and their children (33.3% female; Mage = 4.4 years). Families (51% referred from child welfare or health services for risk of maltreatment) were assigned to PCIT or a supported waitlist, with families assigned to PCIT receiving either standard PCIT (S/PCIT) or motivation-enhanced PCIT (M/PCIT), depending on their time of entry to the study. Waitlist families received phone calls every week for 12 weeks. Parents in M/PCIT reported more readiness to change their behavior from preassessment to after the motivation sessions. Also, parents who reported high, rather than low, motivation at preassessment did have a lower attrition rate, and there was some evidence that enhancing motivation was protective of premature attrition to the extent that caregivers achieved a high degree of change in motivation. Yet comparison of attrition rates and survival analyses revealed no difference between M/PCIT and S/PCIT in retention rate. Finally, there were greater reductions in externalizing and internalizing child behavior problems and parental stress among families in S/PCIT and M/PCIT compared with waitlist, and there was generally no significant difference between the two treatment conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-550
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2017


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