Evidence-Based Strategies

Circle of Security Parenting (COS-P)

From Circle of Security International

The Circle of Security is a relationship based early intervention program designed to enhance attachment security between parents and children. Decades of university-based research have confirmed that secure children exhibit increased empathy, greater self-esteem, better relationships with parents and peers, enhanced school readiness, and an increased capacity to handle emotions more effectively when compared with children who are not secure. The COS intervention is intended to help caregivers increase their awareness of their children’s needs and whether their own responses meet those needs. With increased awareness, parents can choose to respond in ways that promote secure attachment and exploration of the environment.  In this shift from mind-blindness to seeing what is hidden in plain sight lies the potential to break problematic attachment patterns, passed from one generation to the next, that can compromise healthy relationships throughout a child’s lifespan. 

Target Population: Parents or caregivers of children with children younger than 6 years old in high-risk populations such as child enrolled in Early Head Start, teen moms, or parents with irritable babies

The COS-P protocol presents Circle of Security content in eight chapters using a manual for the provider, handouts for the parents, and a DVD that explains and shows examples of all concepts presented. The facilitator stops at designated moments and asks reflective questions to participants. The core concepts of the program are:

  • The caregiver serves as a secure base from which the child can explore and as a safe haven to which the child can return for connection in times of stress
  • Some parents feel uncomfortable/threatened by their child’s exploration (moving away), whereas others have these negative feelings instead in response to their child’s attachment wishes (bids for connection)
  • Given that a child thrives when the caregiver is relatively responsive to both attachment and exploratory behavior, it is important that the caregiver develop the reflective capacity to consider what may hinder or help her/his capacity to respond.

Program Goals:  The overall goals of Circle of Security Parenting (COS-P) are:

  • Increase security of attachment of the child to the parent
  • Increase parent’s ability to read child’s cues
  • Increase empathy in the parent for the child
  • Decrease negative attributions of the parent regarding the child’s motivations
  • Increase parent’s capacity to self-reflect
  • Increase parent’s capacity to pause, reflect, and chose security-promoting caregiving behaviors
  • Increase parent’s capacity to regulate stressful emotional states
  • Increase parent’s ability to recognize ruptures in the relationship and facilitate repairs
  • Increase parent’s capacity to provide comfort when their child is in distress

The essential components of Circle of Security Parenting (COS-P) include:

  • Providers cover the material consisting of 8 chapters at one chapter per meeting for 8 sessions. Each chapter can be completed in 90 minutes in a group context, in individual counseling, or in a home visitation setting.
  • Each chapter on the DVD provides the theory and examples of parents interacting with their children and reflecting on the material. There are designated places to stop and engage parents in reflective dialogue regarding what has just been presented. A series of reflective questions are suggested in the manual for each designated pause.

Essential components include 1. Individualized treatment plans developed by videotaping and parent-child interaction assessment, 2. Identification of the single, most problematic pattern related to attachment and caregiving, and 3. Three video sessions of caregivers interacting with their children.  It was designed to be conducted in a group setting.  Home visits are included for the video sessions.  Recommended duration from assessment to the final visit is 3-4 months.


Circle of Security Parenting (COS-P) currently lacks the necessary research evidence to be given a rating by the California Evidence Based Clearinghouse.  COS-P was last reviewed June 2014.  Several randomized control research trials of COS-P are currently underway.

Child Welfare System Rating Level: Medium: The program was designed, or is commonly used, to serve children, youth, young adults, and/or families who are similar to child welfare populations (i.e., in history, demographics, or presenting problems) and likely include current and former child welfare services recipients.

Circle of Security Website



Coyne, J. (2013). Parenting from the outside-in: Reflections on parent training during a potential paradigm shift. Australian Psychologist, 48, 379–387. doi: 10.1111/ap.12010

Prevention matrix

Primary – Secondary – Tertiary

COS-P has been provided to parents with higher risks of abuse or neglect. It can address insensitive, unresponsive caregiving or frightening parental behavior. 

COS-P Introductory Videos

A sample of the COS-P DVD:

Connection video:

A tour of the Circle of Security:


Parenting DVD training: Circle of Security Parenting Training© is a DVD parent education program offering the core components of the evidence-based and internationally acclaimed COS® protocol. This 4-Day seminar trains professionals to use an eight chapter DVD to educate caregivers. The program presents video examples of secure and problematic parent/child interaction in the zero to five age range, healthy options in caregiving, and animated graphics designed to clarify principles central to COS®. Circle of Security Parenting© implements decades of attachment research in an accessible step-by-step process for use in group settings, home visitation, or individual counseling. The DVD and Manual are now translated into Spanish, Italian and Japanese.


Circle of Security-International does not prescribe an evaluation process for COS-P classes. Rooted in Relationships communities complete two evaluation tools 1) Parent Educator Survey and 2) Parent Survey (available in English & Spanish) at the completion of each eight week series.


COS-P Parent Educators in Nebraska are currently being supported via the Parent Education Professional Community (PEP) which is managed by NC and funded through Part C and the Head Start State Collaboration Office. The Parent Education Professional Community (PEP) provides opportunities to newly trained COS-P Parent Educators to participate in interactive, informative webinars to help incorporate COS-P into their community. Educators also have access to a common document warehouse where they can find documents that be used to tailor to the community’s needs. Financial support for the first year of the PEP Community is generously provided by Part C and the Head Start State Collaboration Office in partnership with the Nebraska Circle of Security Statewide Leadership Team.

State partners

Early Development Network, Nebraska Extension and UNL Center for Children, Families and the Law, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, NE Department of Education, NE Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Infant Mental Health Association, NE Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, Head Start State-Collaboration Office, First Five Nebraska. 

Nebraska Children grantee communities

Circle of Security-Parenting classes are currently being offered in multiple locations throughout the state, both funded by NC and not. Two counties working on the Rooted in Relationships Initiative have identified COS-P as their systems level strategy and have begun to offer classes. Those classes are currently being offered in Dawson County and Saline County. Additionally, NC is providing backbone support to this effort by leading the COS-P Statewide Leadership Team as well as the Parent Education Professional Community and the Reflective Consultation Training Academy. 

Many state agencies in Nebraska are working toward the development of a Reflective Consultation Network that will allow for the provision of reflective consultation for COS-P on a regional level across the state. In order to move forward with the Network we must build our statewide capacity to provide reflective consultation by training additional Reflective Consultants. Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, with the support of the Statewide Circle of Security Leadership Team, sought applications for participation in the 2015 Reflective Consultation Training Academy. The period of participation will be March-September 2015. Upon successful completion of the Training Academy requirements, accepted applicants will be eligible for contracted work as Reflective Consultants supporting the efforts of Circle of Security™ Registered Parent Educators working throughout Nebraska. Participation in the Training Academy does not guarantee that individuals will receive a contract to provide reflective consultation.

Dr. Mark Hald, who has provided leadership in bringing COS-P to the state, is contracted by DHHS to provide a therapeutic level (Intensive Intervention) of COS-P for parents and children with high risk or behavioral factors.  


Parents weigh in on Circle of Security class

North Platte Star-Herald, June 13, 2013

Related strategies

Circle of Security-Home Visiting (COS-HV4)

Site Map        Log In