The Baby Elmo Program: Improving teen father-child interactions within juvenile justice facilities

Rachel Barr, Natalie Brito, Jaclyn Zocca, Samantha Reina, Jennifer Rodriguez, Carole Shauffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of the Baby Elmo Program is to establish a low-cost, sustainable parenting and structured visitation program for non-custodial incarcerated teen parents. The program is taught and supervised by probation staff in juvenile detention facilities and unlike traditional programs, this intervention is not based on increasing the teen's abstract parenting knowledge, but rather in building a relationship between the teen and his child. The sessions target the interactional quality of the relationship by introducing relationship, communication, and socio-emotional enhancing techniques. Because the intervention is conducted in the context of parent-child visits, it fosters hands-on learning and increases the opportunity for contact between these young parents and their children, a benefit in itself. Twenty father-infant dyads, with infants ranging in age from 6 to 36. months, participated in the present preliminary evaluation of the program. Individual growth curve analyses showed significant gains in five of six measures of emotional responsiveness with the age of infant as a significant covariate. These results indicate improvements in positive high quality interactions and communication during sessions between infants and their incarcerated parents and this increase in the interactional quality of the relationship increases the likelihood that the incarcerated teen and child will form and maintain a positive relationship with one another.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1555-1562
Number of pages8
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Juvenile justice
  • Parent-child interactions
  • Parental incarceration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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