MTB-HV is focused on preventing a range of negative parental and infant outcomes and includes an emphasis on strengthening attachment relationships between young parents and their first babies. Facing adversity and trauma can lead to toxic and far-reaching effects for young people bearing children and young families raising children. Preventive approaches that build on strengths and foster resilience within parents and children are essential to interrupting the negative cycles and patterns that can emerge for highly stressed young families.
MTB-HV is aimed at enhancing reflective capacities in young parents. In particular, we are attempting to enhance parental Reflective Functioning (RF); that is, parents’ capacity to make sense of their infants’ emotional and cognitive states. This reflective approach is intrinsic to all MTB programmatic efforts to improve the health, development, and mental health of young parents and their infants.
Through pilot research with young adult and teen parents, positive outcomes were demonstrated in RF, parent-child relationship, infant attachment, and life course outcomes. The 5-year NIH study that followed allowed us to test the efficacy of this innovative intervention at two study sites. Research findings have included a number of additional positive outcomes for MTB families, including high retention rates, lower rates of rapid subsequent childbearing (a second birth within 2 years of the first child), lower rates of child obesity, and fewer incidents of DCF referrals.