About PCIT


Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an empirically-supported treatment for young children with emotional and behavioral disorders that places emphasis on improving the quality of the parent-child relationship and changing parent-child interaction patterns. PCIT International was created to promote fidelity in the practice and training of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy through well-conducted research, training, and continuing education of therapists and trainers. By creating an interface between the scholarly activities of PCIT researchers and the expertise of front-line clinicians, PCIT International promotes healthy family functioning.

Bylaws of PCIT International

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CJ works together with his mother

CJ works together with his mother

PCIT outcome research has demonstrated statistically and clinically significant improvements in the conduct-disordered behavior of preschool age children: After treatment, children’s behavior is within the normal range. Studies have documented the superiority of PCIT to wait list controls and to parent group didactic training. In addition to significant changes on parent ratings and observational measures of children’s behavior problems, outcome studies have demonstrated important changes in the interactional style of the fathers and mothers in play situations with the child. Parents show increases in reflective listening, physical proximity, and pro-social verbalization, and decreases in sarcasm and criticism of the child after completion of PCIT. Outcome studies have also demonstrated significant changes on parents’ self-report measures of psychopathology, personal distress, and parenting locus of control. Measures of consumer satisfaction in all studies have shown that parents are highly satisfied with the process and outcome of treatment at its completion..



The Theoretical Underpinnings of PCIT

Diana Baumrind

Diana Baumrind

The development of PCIT was based on Baumrind’s developmental research associating parenting practices with child outcomes. Baumrind demonstrated the importance of parents meeting young children’s dual needs for nurturance and for limits, which she described as authoritative parenting. Her research showed that to promote optimal child outcomes, we must focus on promoting optimal parenting styles and parent-child interactions.

PCIT draws on both attachment and social learning theories to achieve authoritative parenting. Attachment theory asserts that sensitive and responsive parenting provides the foundation for the child’s sense of knowing that he or she will be responded to when necessary. Thus, young children whose parents show greater warmth, responsiveness, and sensitivity to the child’s behaviors are more likely to develop a secure sense of their relationships and more effective emotional and behavioral regulation. For this reason, in the first phase of PCIT parents learn the Child-Directed Interaction (CDI), which aims to restructure the parent-child relationship and provide the child with a secure attachment to his or her parent. Social learning theories emphasize the contingencies that shape the interactions of children and their parents. Patterson’s coercion theory provides a transactional account of early conduct-disordered behavior in which child conduct problems are inadvertently established or maintained by the parent-child interactions. Thus, in the second phase of PCIT parents learn the Parent-Directed Interaction (PDI), which specifically addresses these processes by establishing consistent contingencies for child behavior.



Click Here to read a historical account of PCIT, co-authored by Beverly Funderburk and Shelia Eyberg.

Reference: Funderburk, Beverly W., Eyberg, Shelia. History of psychotherapy: Continuity and change (2nd ed.).
Norcross, John C. (Ed.); Freedheim, Donald K. (Ed.); Washington, DC, US:
American Psychological Association, 2011. pp. 415-420. [Chapter]

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