Parenting stress and children's trauma symptoms over the course of TF-CBT: Examining differences between relative and foster/adoptive caregivers

Stephanie Gusler, Ginny Sprang, Jessica Eslinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Through Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), the gold standard in children's trauma treatment, caregivers participate in sessions parallel to the child. However, much of the research examining the impact of this caregiver involvement has focused on biological or relative caregivers, despite the high prevalence of trauma and trauma symptoms among youth in foster care and high rates of parenting stress among foster/adoptive caregivers. Objective: The current study examined differences among relative and foster/adoptive caregivers' levels of parenting stress throughout the course of TF-CBT and how these differences were associated with child trauma symptoms throughout treatment. Participants and setting: Participants were 130 caregiver-child dyads (84 = foster/adoptive; 46 = biological/relative) who completed TF-CBT in either an academic-based clinic or an associated mental health agency. Providing clinicians were trained in TF-CBT, participated in case consultation, and received ongoing clinical supervision. Methods: Children and caregivers completed baseline measures prior to beginning treatment and termination measures at the completion of treatment. Results: Prior to treatment, foster/adoptive caregivers reported greater dysfunction in their parent-child interactions and relative caregivers reported greater personal stress. These differences were not seen at treatment termination, and significant reductions in child trauma symptoms and caregiver parenting stress were evidenced from pre to post treatment. Significant covariation between child trauma symptoms and relative caregiver parenting stress at termination was also found. Conclusions: There were different profiles of parenting stress for relative versus foster/adoptive caregivers, but treatment completion attenuated group differences in parenting stress over the course of treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106035
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was provided by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration 5U79SM063092 (Sprang, PI).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Adoption
  • Foster Care
  • Parenting stress
  • TF-CBT
  • Trauma symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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