Early Intervention/Insecure Attachment

A Comparison of Equine-Assisted Intervention and Conventional Play-Based Early Intervention for Mother–Child Dyads with Insecure Attachment

Andrea Beetz, MA, PhD, Nora Winkler, MS, Henri Julius, PhD, Kerstin UvnäS-Moberg, PhD & Kurt Kotrschal , PhD

Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention (2015)


 Early interventions aim at promoting a good mother–child relationship as basis for a good socio-emotional development, especially in high-risk populations, and at correcting already unfavorable patterns of interaction and are common today. Insecure attachment, both of the child and of the mother, has been identified as a risk factor for early regulation disorders and further child development. Based on accumulating evidence of effectiveness of animal-assisted interventions, we implemented an Equine-Assisted Intervention (EAI) as an early intervention approach for mother–child-dyads and investigated its effects in comparison to a conventional play-based early intervention (PBI) in a randomized controlled trial.


 There was not statistically significant difference (p < 0.05) between intervention groups with regard to changes from insecure to secure attachment or from disorganized to organized attachment, assessed via the Ainsworth Strange Situation Test. The only significant group-difference with regard to self-reported caregiving, was found for proximity maintenance in mothers without previous therapy experience (n = 8), those in the EAI reaching higher scores (p = 0.064). 

Conclusions from This Review

In spite of the present study’s limitations, some advantages of an Equine-Assisted Intervention as an early intervention approach aimed at supporting at-risk mother–child dyads were apparent.