Is COSP Culturally Responsive – Circle of Security International

Is COSP™ Culturally Responsive?

Asking Questions Rather Than Teaching Techniques


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t almost every COSP training, a discussion around how culture impacts parenting breaks out. Of course, this makes sense: culture influences humans (including caregivers and their children) in many ways! At the same time, there is strong evidence that humans, like many other species, are "biologically programmed" to form attachments. Not only do infants across cultures show attachment behavior (at predictable ages), but attachment occurs in many other species as well. And it's not just other primates that attach; specific attachment behaviors have been documented from mammals to birds and even to reptiles and insects!

Like humans, many other species, are biologically programmed to form attachments

So if attachment is universal in humans, does that mean culture is irrelevant? Hardly! It's probably important first to think about what the word culture represents and then consider the question of what is meant by a "culturally responsive practice."

Here's an interesting way to visualize how culture influences human beings:


The Cultural Iceberg Model


The Cultural Iceberg Model. How culture is expressed in explicit ways (e.g., behavior or outward expression of beliefs) and implicit ways (e.g., values and thought patterns). Adapted from the work of Edward T Hall.
To learn more: Read PDF


One key implication of the "Cultural Iceberg" is that much of the way we experience or express culture is through implicit concepts, attitudes or approaches—ones that we might not even be conscious of. From the Circle of Security perspective, this means that how any caregiver approaches "being the Hands on the Circle" for their children is filtered through their own iceberg. Though we often lump people together into categories (by nationality or ethnicity or race or religion, for example), research makes it clear that these groupings are never unified when it comes to concepts, attitudes or approaches to child rearing! In fact, we humans develop (and change) our attitudes and approaches to many things in our lives based on new experiences.

In our trainings we talk with practitioners about what we call 'the reflective stance.' Finding ways to help people reflect on themselves and their relationships requires acceptance, trust and positive intentionality. It also requires appreciation of the of diverse perspectives and experiences that the caregivers we work with bring to us. One very useful framework for practitioners is the Diversity Informed Tenets created by a group of infant mental health professionals.



Of course, the fact that people can change is key to programs like COSP™. Helping parents understand what the universal attachment needs of children are (e.g, helping parents "see the Circle") may end up reshaping implicit attitudes that are based on experiences—even experiences that were painful or traumatic. But it surely is not that simple! So let's turn to how we might define a culturally responsive program...


The Circle of Security Program is being delivered in many different cultures around the world by facilitators who have been trained in a process that emphasizes asking caregivers questions rather than teaching them techniques. That said, we're not the ones to answer the question of whether our model is culturally-responsive...we think the most relevant information about this question comes from the reflections of the many wonderful Registered Circle of Security Facilitators or Certified COS-Intensive Providers from around the world and from parents or caregivers who have been through the COSP program.

Check out the videos below to hear facilitators and parents talk about the cultural applicability of COSP: