Promoting Sensitivity in Center-based Childcare (the SECURE Project)
The SECURE project evaluates the efficacy and feasibility of the attachment-theory informed program Circle of Security Parenting (COSP) adapted to the childcare context (COS-Classroom, COSC) for promoting sensitive responsiveness in early childcare providers.
The SECURE project is a collaboration between the municipality of Høje-Taastrup, The Danish Evaluation Institute, Center for Early Intervention and Family Studies and Katrien Helmerhorst, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and is funded by The Independent Research Fund Denmark.
SECURE: SEnsitive Care: Understanding and REsponding.
In a randomized controlled trial, the study aims to:
- assess the efficacy of the COSC approach for improving early childcare providers' interactive skills when assessed in a natural group setting where the childcare providers interact with several children;
- evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of COSC by investigating whether it can realistically be implemented in a busy real-life setting and whether Danish childcare providers experience the intervention as a positive contribution to their practice;
- investigate how structural factors such as group size, child-adult ratio and staff stability impact the childcare providers' interactive skills and moderate effects of the intervention.
The study will provide new knowledge on whether a relatively cost-effective intervention can improve the quality of care in early childcare in Denmark. Also, findings on how structural factors influence the quality of care will directly inform practice.
It is well-established that the quality of children’s attachment relationship with their primary caregivers play a crucial role for children’s long-term socioemotional development . However, it has also been shown that children do not only develop attachment-relationships with their primary caregivers, they also develop attachment relationships with early childcare providers (‘secondary caregivers’) with whom they spend substantial time. As more than 90% of Danish 0-2-year-old children spend at least 30 hours per week in childcare, childcare providers constitute an important part of most Danish children’s so-called network of multiple attachments.
Research shows that the quality of the relationship between the child and the childcare provider and the caregiving environment in the childcare setting are important factors for children’s long-term developmental outcomes, such as socioemotional, language and cognitive development. The association between the quality of the caregiving environment in early childcare and child development has consistently been found to be strongest for children growing up in a-risk contexts.
Children with an insecure attachment to their parents are at heightened risk for developing insecure attachments to secondary caregivers and childcare providers. Yet, the childcare provider's interactive behavior (level of sensitivity) is shown to be associated with the quality of the child's attachment to the childcare provider irrespective of the child's attachment to the primary caregiver. Therefore, early childcare providers' interactive skills may provide an important target of intervention in terms of promoting healthy child development.
The Circle of Security Classroom, COSC is a professional development program adapted from the Circle of Security-Parenting, COSP. It is a manualized intervention that leverages research on attachment relationships combining psychoeducation with a mentalization-based approach. The model uses pre-produced video vignettes of secure and problematic caregiver-child interactions to illustrate how caregivers may struggle in meeting children's' attachment needs. The visual model, the Circle of Security (see below) is a simple schematic capturing a central part of attachment theory namely that children develop a secure attachment if their caregivers are available when they need emotional comfort and support (safe haven), but also when they are exploring (secure base). A key assumption is that learning and exploration occur when the child experiences available adults providing both a secure base and a safe haven.
The COSP manual (Cooper, Hoffman and Powel, 2020, translated by Pedersen, Kronendorf von Wowern, Lier, & Smith-Nielsen), and the additional COSC material has been translated into Danish for the purpose of this study.
Childcare centers ("vuggestuer") are recruited from the Danish municipality Høje-Taastrup that has a relatively high proportion of at-risk families. Teams of 2-5 childcare providers are randomly allocated to either COSC (eight weekly two-hours sessions) or a waitlist. A total of 110 childcare providers are estimated to be enrolled in the trial, and the intervention will be delivered in groups of 6-10 childcare providers. To facilitate implementation, the managers of the participating childcare providers are invited to participate in the intervention.
Baseline and follow-up measures are collected parallel in both groups. Childcare providers allocated to the waitlist will receive COSC after the follow-up data have been collected, and intake is planned to be completed in January 2023.
Effects of COSC are measured by the Caregiver Interaction Profile - Scales (CIP-Scales). Using filmed observations of interaction between childcare providers and the children in their case, six key interactive skills are coded: Sensitive responsiveness, Respect for autonomy, structuring and limit setting, Verbal communication, Developmental stimulation and Fostering positive peer interactions. Structural factors are measured using observation and questionnaires answered by childcare providers and their managers. Feasibility and acceptability of the intervention are evaluated using questionnaires and qualitative interviews.
Read more about the CIP-Scales here
- Helmerhorst, K. O., Riksen-Walraven, J. M., Vermeer, H. J., Fukkink, R. G., & Tavecchio, L. W. (2014). Measuring the interactive skills of caregivers in child care centers: Development and validation of the caregiver interaction profile scales. Early Education and Development, 25(5), 770-790.
- Helmerhorst, K. O., Riksen-Walraven, J. M. A., Fukkink, R. G., Tavecchio, L. W., & Deynoot-Schaub, M. J. G. (2017). Effects of the caregiver interaction profile training on caregiver–child interactions in Dutch child care centers: A randomized controlled trial. Paper presented at the Child & youth care forum.
Principal investigator is Associate Professor Johanne Smith-Nielsen, Center for Early Intervention and Family Studies.
How is it to participate?
Listen to Nina and Nadja sharing what changes they’ve experienced after participating in the Circle of Security Classroom program.
More about COSC
The Circle of Security Classroom (COSC) is a professional development program for caregivers working in early childcare centers. Each caregiver participate in eight weekly group sessions (two hours per session) with their team. Each group consists of 5-8 caregivers and their managers. The group sessions are facilitated by a certified COSC facilitator and typically take place in the afternoon.
In the group sessions, caregivers are invited to reflect on video vignettes as well as on examples from their daily work with the children in their care focusing on the overall question: how do we promote the development of secure relationships between caregivers and the children in the childcare center? Another central theme is how the caregivers’ own relationship history informs and affects their current relationships with the children in their care.