The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 983–998 | Cite as

Implementing Parenting Programmes Across Cultural Contexts: A Perspective on the Deficit Narrative

  • Ruben van Esch
  • Mariëtte de Haan
Special Issue Article


This paper critiques universalistic ‘at-risk’ approaches by parenting programmes in the context of international development, arguing that local practices are neglected in research. Fifty post-training interviews with 25 participants in Western Kenya are analysed using discourse analysis. Post-training, parents reported less physical punishment and emphasized parent–child communication more. However, the analyses show that parents see these newly introduced methods as a means to act more efficiently within the utilitarian approach to parenting they defined before training. Cultural norms related to respect, authority and compliance remained important, although attention to the responsiveness and inner motives of children had arguably started to bend and twist the older family hierarchy and the position of children in it. It is argued that the effects of such programmes in international development contexts should be considered the result of interaction between programme content and local ideas and practices. The policy implications of this dynamic are discussed.


Parenting violence against children the meaning of evidence in international development cultural diversity deficit narrative 

Cet article critique les approches « à risque » universalistes des programmes d’éducation parentale dans le contexte du développement international, en faisant valoir que les pratiques locales sont négligées dans la recherche. 50 entretiens post-formation avec 25 participants dans l’ouest du Kenya sont analysés à l’aide de la méthode d’analyse du discours. Suite à la formation, les parents ont signalé moins de châtiments corporels et ont davantage mis l’accent sur la communication parent-enfant. Cependant, les analyses montrent que les parents voient ces nouvelles méthodes comme un moyen d’agir plus efficacement selon l’approche utilitaire de la parentalité qu’ils avaient définie avant la formation. Les normes culturelles liées au respect, à l’autorité et à l’obéissance demeurent importantes, bien que l’attention portée à la sensibilité et au for intérieur des enfants ait sans doute commencé à déformer l’ancienne hiérarchie familiale et la position des enfants en son sein. Il est avancé que les effets de ces programmes dans le cadre du développement international devraient être considérés comme le résultat d’une interaction entre le contenu du programme et les idées et pratiques locales. Les implications politiques de cette dynamique sont discutées.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education and PedagogyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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