The MTB program is focused on preventing a range of negative maternal and infant outcomes and includes an emphasis on strengthening attachment relationships between young parents and their first babies. Poverty creates toxic and far-reaching effects for young women bearing children and young families raising children, and preventive approaches that build strengths and foster resilience within parents and children are essential to interrupting the negative cycles and patterns within highly stressed young families.
These young families often include adolescent women, who continue to bear children in large numbers in the United States, especially within neighborhoods populated by poor and minority families. Many young parents and teen mothers are unable to effectively use community or school-based supportive parenting programs because of complex family, health, and mental health issues that interfere with their program involvement. These are the families that MTB clinicians aim to reach.
The MTB program is also aimed at enhancing reflective capacities in young mothers. In particular, we are attempting to enhance maternal Reflective Functioning (RF); that is, the mother’s capacity to make sense of her infant’s emotional and cognitive states. This RF approach is intrinsic to all of our programmatic efforts to improve the health, development, and mental health of young mothers and infants.In our pilot research with young adult and teen mothers, positive outcomes have been demonstrated in maternal RF, parent-child relationship, infant attachment, and maternal and child life course outcomes. The 5-year NIH study now underway allows us to test the efficacy of this innovative intervention at two study sites, as we look at possible positive health outcomes including high retention rates, lower rates of rapid subsequent childbearing (a second birth within 2 years of the first child), and fewer incidents of DCF referrals.