Steps Toward Effective, Enjoyable Parenting (STEEP)

About This Program

Target Population: First-time low-income mothers of children 0-23 months old

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 1

Program Overview

STEEP works on the premise that a secure attachment between parent and infant establishes ongoing patterns of healthy interactions. Through home visits and group sessions, STEEP facilitators work alongside parents to help them understand their child's development. Parents learn to respond sensitively and predictably to their child's needs and to make decisions that ensure a safe and supportive environment for the whole family.

Specific topics and strategies included in training:

  • Making relationship-based practice real, from recruitment to termination
  • Using videotaping and guided viewing to promote understanding, sensitivity, and responsiveness
  • Planning and leading parent-infant groups
  • Challenging and supporting parents in examining how their own relationship history influences attitudes and parenting behavior
  • Using an ecological approach to help reduce risk and maximize parents' support for themselves and their children
  • Using reflective supervision or consultation to sustain service providers and ensure effective service

Program Goals

The overall goals of Steps toward Effective, Enjoyable Parenting (STEEP) are:

  • Improve parental knowledge and understanding of child's behavior and development
  • Improve parental sensitivity and responsiveness to infant cues
  • Improve parental coping skills and decision-making related to life-planning for themselves and their child
  • Strengthen the family's support network, including both formal and informal resources
  • Improve parents' reflective capacity as it relates to how their relationship history influences their responses to their child

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Steps Toward Effective, Enjoyable Parenting (STEEP).

Essential Components

The essential components of Steps toward Effective, Enjoyable Parenting (STEEP) include:

  • Bi-weekly home visiting beginning during the 2nd trimester of pregnancy and continuing through the duration of the program which is usually until the child turns 2 years old)
  • Bi-weekly mother-infant groups that include both mother-child interaction time and mom-talk time
  • Video-recording of ordinary parent-child interaction and guided viewing of the video with the parent to promote parental sensitivity and perspective-taking and to identify factors that support or hinder the parent from sustaining sensitive responsiveness (Seeing Is Believing™)
  • Occasional family nights that include fathers and other family members invited by the parents
  • Regularly scheduled reflective supervision for all staff, both individually and as a team during case consultation (that includes review of recent videos of the families being discussed)

Program Delivery

Parent/Caregiver Services

Steps Toward Effective, Enjoyable Parenting (STEEP) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Lack of knowledge of child development, insensitive parenting, anger management, unhealthy life choices, isolation and/or connection with unhealthy peer groups that undermine parenting
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Home visits include father and other household members as possible, and family nights also include family members, as defined by the mother.

Recommended Intensity:

Weekly contact (home visits alternating with group); home visits typically are about 90 minutes and group sessions typically last 3 hours, including a meal

Recommended Duration:

Approximately 27 months (beginning in the second trimester of pregnancy and continuing until the child's 2nd birthday)

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Birth Family Home
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider


Steps Toward Effective, Enjoyable Parenting (STEEP) includes a homework component:

Because the program is individualized, parents and facilitators sometimes decide together on homework, such as tracking steps toward personal and parenting goals, monitoring changes in a child's behavior, etc.


Steps Toward Effective, Enjoyable Parenting (STEEP) has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Room with necessary equipment for running mother-infant groups, which usually include provision of a meal; a quiet, comfortable room for mom-talk time while babies remain in the interaction room; qualified personnel to conduct the home visiting and lead the groups; qualified assistants to care for babies during mom-talk time. Some programs also provide transportation if they are in a location where public transportation is unavailable or difficult for moms and infants.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Minimum of a Bachelor's degree in a related field (e.g., health, education, social work, psychology) plus preservice training specifically in the STEEP model and ongoing reflective supervision and continuing education tailored to staff needs.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contacts:
Training Type/Location:

Onsite and regionally

Number of days/hours:

A two-day introductory training is offered to teach STEEP strategies (including the Seeing Is Believing video review strategy) and the theory and research behind the program, But organizations wishing to implement the full STEEP program must work with the program representatives to tailor a training and ongoing consultation plan to the qualifications and experience level of the staff in their organization who will be implementing the program. Either Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) or the STEEP program developers can be the point of contact for interested organizations.

Additional Resources:

There currently are additional qualified resources for training:

There are several qualified trainers in the U.S. and CEED or the program developers can make those connections as appropriate. Leaders of the STEEP program and training in Germany also are an excellent resource, with Dr. Gerhard Suess as the point of contact (

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Suess, G. J., Bohlen, U., Carlson, E. A., Spangler, G., & Frumentia Maier, M. (2016). Effectiveness of attachment-based STEEP™ intervention in a German high-risk sample. Attachment & Human Development, 18(5), 443–460.

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (quasiexperimental)
Number of Participants: 107 mother-infant dyads


  • Age — Children: 12–24 months; Adults: Mean=18.08–19.34 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Children: Not specified, Adults: 100% Female
  • Status — Participants were mothers and their children involved in child welfare agencies.

Location/Institution: Germany (Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Offenburg)

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of the Steps Toward Effective and Enjoyable Parenting (STEEP) intervention model. Mothers in the STEEP group were recruited during pregnancy or, in some cases, shortly after the birth of the baby. Control group families were recruited when the babies were 12 months of age. Both groups were followed until the babies were 24 months of age. Treatment group mothers were guided in the STEEP program at the three sites. Control group mothers received standard support as usual in the German Child Welfare System (GCWS). Measures utilized include the Strange Situation Procedure (SSP), the Attachment Q-Sort (AQS), the Parental Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF), the Adult Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI), and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Results indicate that compared with GCWS pairs, significantly more mother' infant pairs in the intervention group showed secure attachment patterns in Ainsworth´s SSP when the infants were 12 months of age. At the end of the intervention (infant age=24 months), attachment security scores derived from Waters' AQS were in the predicted direction and showed a medium effect size but did not reach criteria of statistical significance. At both time points, the STEEP group showed significantly fewer signs of attachment disorganization than the comparison group. Limitations include lack of randomization of participants, small control group, and lack of follow-up.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Egeland, B., & Erickson, M. F. (2004). Lessons from STEEP™ Linking theory, research and practice for the well-being of infants and parents. In A. Sameroff, S. C. McDonough, & K. L. Rosenblum (Eds.),Treating parent-infant relationship problems: Strategies for intervention. New York: Guilford Press.

Erickson, M. F., Korfmacher, J., & Egeland, B. (1992). Attachments past and present: Implications for therapeutic intervention with mother-infant dyads. Annual Progress in Child Psychiatry and Child Development, 1993, 459-476.

Suess, G., Erickson, M. F., Egeland, B., Scheurer-Englisch, H., & Hartmann, H-P. (2017). Attachment-based preventive intervention: Lessons from 30 years of implementing, adapting and evaluating the STEEP™ program. In H. Steele & M. Steele (Eds.), Handbook of attachment-based interventions. New York, NY: Guilford Publications.

Contact Information

Martha Erickson, Ph.D. (retired)
Agency/Affiliation: University of Minnesota

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: May 2023

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: November 2019

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: February 2008