A Qualitative Study of Mechanisms Underlying Effects of a Parenting Intervention in Rural Liberia

Abstract

Parenting interventions can reduce child maltreatment and improve child outcomes in high-risk settings, but little is known about mechanisms underlying effects. This study presents qualitative findings on mechanisms of change from a randomized trial of a parenting intervention in Liberia. Participants (N = 30) completed semi-structured interviews, and thematic content analysis was conducted from transcripts. Results suggest that learning about effects of violence on child development and discussing the value of empathy for children strengthened caregivers’ sense of identity as nurturers and protectors. This in turn drove efforts to decrease harsh discipline. As a result, children expressed less fear, increasing opportunities for positive interactions; shared enjoyment maintained reduced harsh treatment. Caregivers also described recognizing that physical punishment was often ineffective and using new non-violent discipline skills alongside emotion regulation skills to facilitate behavior change. Participants also described reduced couples conflict and more peaceful home environments associated with increased self-identification as role models.

Les interventions d’éducation parentale peuvent réduire la maltraitance des enfants et améliorer les résultats chez les enfants dans les contextes à haut risque, mais on sait peu de choses sur les mécanismes qui sous-tendent ces effets. Cette étude présente des résultats qualitatifs sur les mécanismes de changement à partir d’un essai randomisé d’une intervention d’éducation parentale au Libéria. Les participants (N = 30) ont participé à des entretiens semi-structurés et l’analyse thématique du contenu a été effectuée à partir des transcriptions. Les résultats suggèrent que le fait d’apprendre les effets de la violence sur le développement de l’enfant et de débattre de la valeur de l’empathie pour les enfants a renforcé l’identité des éducateurs en tant que nourriciers et protecteurs. Cela a entraîné des efforts pour diminuer la discipline sévère. En conséquence, les enfants ont exprimé moins de peur, augmentant ainsi les possibilités d’interactions positives; le plaisir partagé a permis de maintenir la diminution de la discipline sévère. Les éducateurs ont également reconnu que la punition physique était souvent inefficace et qu’ils utilisaient de nouvelles compétences disciplinaires non violentes ainsi que des techniques de régulation de l’émotion pour faciliter le changement de comportement. Les participants ont également décrit la réduction des conflits au sein des couples et des foyers plus sereins ainsi qu’une plus forte identification à leur role de modèle.

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Acknowledgements

For their input into project design and implementation, the authors would like to thank Paul Amendola, Joanne Creighton, Julia Frazier, Esther Karnley, Geoffrey Kirenga, Ruth Z.B. Korgba-Siafa, Anjuli Shivshanker, Rufus J. Kuku, Justine Landegger, Sandra Maignant, Sarah Smith, Crystal Stewart, Katherine Rodrigues, Joanne Creighton, Eduardo Garcia-Rolland, and Laura Boone.

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Correspondence to Ali Giusto.

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Giusto, A., Friis, E., Sim, A.L. et al. A Qualitative Study of Mechanisms Underlying Effects of a Parenting Intervention in Rural Liberia. Eur J Dev Res 29, 964–982 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-017-0101-8

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Keywords

  • Liberia
  • young children
  • harsh discipline
  • Parenting