Early Mental Health/

Copenhagen Infant Mental Health

Can a systematic, early screening done by the health care identify families with small children at risk of failure to thrive and early social withdrawal? Can an early-indicated group session prevent social withdrawal in toddlers and difficulties in the early parent-child relation and thus strengthen welfare and development of the child? The Copenhagen Infant Mental Health-project examines, if new screening methods and a particular developed group therapy session can support parents to strengthen more safe relations to their child and to strengthen the socio-emotional development of the child.


2015 - 2017.

Target group:

Children (0-1 year), who show signs of failure to thrive and early social withdrawal, and mothers with postnatal depression in the municipality of Copenhagen.     

Number of participants:

Around 8.800 infants and mothers will be screened. Hereof 314 families, who fulfil the inclusion criteria for the treatment study and give consent for participation, will enter the effect assessment of the group therapy session.    


The mental health of the child and the mother are assessed in connection with the nurse’s home visits during the child’s first year of life, based on two validated instruments:

Alarm Distress Baby Scale (ADBB), which is used to assess the social contact and welfare of the child.

Edinburgh Postnatal depression Scale (EPDS), which is used to assess the risk of the mother having a postnatal depression.  

If the health visitor finds evidence of a depression at the mother and/ or the infant has an early social withdrawal, the mother and child will be directed to CIMHP. Afterwards, psychologists from CIMHP make a home visit, where the ADBB will be done again, and there will be conducted a clinical diagnostic interview with the mother. If the mother fulfils the criteria for a depression diagnosis, and the child still shows social withdrawal, the family will be referred to a therapeutic group session.

At The University of Copenhagen's Babylab, the parents are offered eight-weeks of group sessions, called “Circle of Security – Parenting” (COS-P). The process is led by a certified COS-P therapist and aims to promote a good and safe connection between the parents and their child. The program must help new parents with, how they understand the behaviour of their child, read the emotions of their child, how they express their own emotions to the child, what emotions they experience are especially difficult to handle, and what they can actually do to strengthen the relation between themselves and their child.    


The effect of the group session COS-P will be evaluated in a randomized controlled trial by draw on family level, where the families are divided into two groups. One of the groups participates in an eight-week family group session at the University of Copenhagen Babylab. The other group receives the help and support that are normally offered in the municipality. It is studied, whether COS-P, when it is compared with the other offers the parents have access to, to a greater extent improve the abilities of the parents to understand the behaviour and emotions of their child and to a greater extent promote a safe connection between parents and child, and thus promote the development, welfare and health of the child.

The effect of the effort will be measured in proportion to the attachment pattern of the child, socio-emotional development, and cognitive-, linguistic-, and motile development, sensitivity and reflexivity of the mother, the stress level of the parents, the mental health of the parents and the family as a whole.


The University of Copenhagen's Babylab and Københavns Kommune/Municipality.     


Expected in 2017.

Project group

Mette Skovgaard Væver

Københavns Universitet

P +4535324906

Theis Lange

University of Copenhagen

P +4535327912

Katrine Wendelboe

Research assistant
University of Copenhagen

P +4535334658

Johanne Smith-Nielsen

University of Copenhagen

P +4535324944

Rie Krondorf von Wowern

Research assistant
University of Copenhagen

P +4535334094

Metteline Lavallée

Project coordinator
University of Copenhagen

P +4535334305


No publications yet.


Read more about Early Mental Health/Copenhagen Infant Mental Health-project at ClinicalTrials.gov.

About The Circle of Security-programme.

About the two validated instruments: Alarm Distress Baby Scale (ADBB) and Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS).