A Retrospective Examination of the Impact of Pharmacotherapy on Parent-Child Interaction Therapy

Chris Wang, Yuliang Hu, Paul A. Nakonezny, Valeria Melo, Chelsea Ale, Arjun P. Athreya, Julia Shekunov, Rachel Lynch, Paul E. Croarkin, Magdalena Romanowicz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: Parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based approach for children aged 2-7 years with disruptive behavior problems. This study examined the effectiveness of PCIT with and without concurrent pharmacotherapy. Methods: A convenience sample was collected from a retrospective chart review of preschool-Aged children treated with PCIT at the Mayo Clinic Young Child Clinic between 2016 and 2020. Quantitative and qualitative data were abstracted from all patients. The sample was divided into two groups based on psychotropic medications status (medicated and unmedicated) at the initiation of PCIT. Effectiveness of treatment was assessed with the change in Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI) score. The change over time in ECBI score was compared between the two PCIT groups with and without concurrent pharmacotherapy using a linear mixed model. Results: Of the 62 youth, 38.71% were females. Mean age was 4.71 ± 1.17 years. The mean baseline ECBI score was 148.74 ± 30.86, indicating clinically significant disruptive behaviors. The mean number of PCIT sessions was 6.59 ± 3.82. There was no statistically significant difference in ECBI scores between the two groups at pre-PCIT (medication group: 149.68, standard error [SE] = 11.61 vs. unmedicated group: 147.92, SE = 10.93, p = 0.8904) and at post-PCIT (medication group: 116.27 [SE = 11.89] vs. unmedicated group: 128.86 [SE = 11.57], p = 0.3464). There was a statistically significant improvement in ECBI scores for both groups after completing therapy (medication group =-33.41 [-22.32%], SE = 6.27, p < 0.0001; d = 1.144; unmedicated group =-19.06 [-12.88%], SE = 5.78, p = 0.0022; d = 1.078). Conclusions: PCIT reduced disruptive behaviors in this sample of young children regardless of concurrent pharmacotherapy. Future prospective studies should consider one particular pharmacological agent and long-Term outcomes of treatment. PCIT and certain pharmacological treatments could have complex and important bidirectional priming effects for both treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-691
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • behavior management training
  • disruptive behavior disorders
  • early childhood
  • parent-child interaction therapy
  • pharmacotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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