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Circle of security (COS) is a parenting program based on attachment psychology and which aims to improve parenting skills and children's attachment style. The program is widely used across several coutries, but there is little evidence of whether it works. 

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Now, however, has the first meta-study come which evaluates the extent to which the COS program works as intended. 

More specifically, the researchers went through previous studies that have assessed the effect of the program, and after an extensive literature search, they ended up with only 10 studies.


Some support for COS having a positive effect

Overall, it is concluded that previous studies provide some support that COS is an effective program. More specifically, the researchers' conclusions are as follows:


  1. Improved attachment quality?

    There was a medium effect size for improved attachment quality in the children when the parents had received the COS intervention.

  2. Able to break disorganized attachment?

    There was also a medium effect size to get out of a disorganized attachment style, but the effect was not statistically significant. However, only 3 studies had considered this, so it is possible that the deficient effect is due to too little statistical power.

  3. Better parenting skills?

    There was a medium effect size for improved parenting skills after receiving the COS intervention.

  4. Greater security in the parenting role?

    It had a great effect on parents' experience of self-efficacy, ie on security in the parental role. However, only 2 studies had looked at this, and this finding must therefore be interpreted with caution.

  5. Reducing parental depression?

    There was a medium effect on parental depression after completing the COS intervention, although this is not one of the program's defined objectives. This is therefore considered a positive side effect of the program.


Need for much more research on COS

The researchers emphasize that the meta-study's biggest weakness is that very few studies have been done on the effect of COS. Thus, the conclusions also become uncertain, and they demand more research on how effective the COS program is.

It is also pointed out that there are particularly few studies that include a control group, which further weakens the possibilities of concluding on the extent to which the measure has an effect.

They conclude that the COS program has the potential to help caregivers form a secure attachment to their children, and that it is important that parents with challenges related to breaking insecure and disorganized attachment patterns receive effective help. The meta-study gives promising results regarding the effect of COS, but as of today, the evidence base is still thin. 

With more research, the evidence for the effect of the COS intervention can be strengthened, they conclude.


Positive feedback from participants at COS

In addition to the mentioned research findings, other types of evaluations of COS have also been made, which indicate that the offer is assessed positively by those who have participated in it. An article on describes experiences from the use of COS at Solli DPS. The authors of the article say:

Most participants report that participation in COS-P contributes to increased understanding of the child and new interaction experiences. As part of internal quality assurance, all participants have completed the COS Parent Feedback Questionnaire anonymously after completing the course. This is a questionnaire where parents are asked to assess the extent to which they feel they have achieved the various goals for COS-P, and how satisfied they are with the course.

So far, 61 participants have completed the course, and 59 have anonymously answered the evaluation form. On a 6-point scale from 1 (poor) to 6 (very good), 53% rated the course as very good, 37% gave the score 5, and 10% gave the score 4. In other words, the clear majority of participants are well satisfied with the course.

At the same time, they emphasize that there are many unanswered questions, including whether the changes that parents experience after the course are significant enough to create a significant change for the child. Here too, it is therefore concluded that more systematic research is needed to evaluate the effect of COS.



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