Art at the Start: A controlled trial and close observation of parent-infant art therapy intervention

Victoria Gray Armstrong (Lead / Corresponding author), Josephine Ross

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This two-part study seeks to evidence art therapy intervention for parent-infant attachment relationships, looking at improvements to wellbeing and relationships. Study one was a controlled trial with 105 participating parent/caregivers and their infants (0–3-years), identified due to concerns about their relationship. They were quasi-randomized to attend a 12-week art therapy group or treatment as usual. Measures focused on parents’ wellbeing and their perceptions of their relationship with their infant. In study 2 we analyzed video footage from the first and penultimate sessions of a sample of 37 dyads, looking for observable changes in the different channels of communication upon which attachments are predicated. The controlled trial showed intervention participants had significantly improved parental wellbeing, significant increases in attachment warmth and significant decreases in intrusion. This contrasted with the control sample who showed a significant decrease in wellbeing, stable warmth, and significant increases in intrusion. The observation study showed that there was a significant increase in the communicative behaviors from the parents to the infant which would support attachments between the first and penultimate sessions. We conclude that these results make a robust case for the inclusion of art therapy within the range of interventions available for at risk early relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)720-737
Number of pages18
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Issue number5
Early online date8 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • attachment
  • parent-infant relationships
  • intervention
  • art therapy
  • controlled trial
  • observation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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