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Report

Parents make the difference: findings from a randomized impact evaluation of a parenting program in rural Liberia

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This report presents findings from a parenting intervention that was implemented in post-conflict Liberia, where young children face many of the risk factors identified as detrimental to their development. In 2012–2013, the IRC implemented a parenting intervention, called Parents Make the Difference, in Lofa County, Liberia. The IRC collaborated with Duke University to undertake an impact evaluation of the program using a randomized controlled trial design. The evaluation assessed the impact of the program on the following outcomes: 1) caregivers’ parenting practices; 2) children’s cognitive, social, and emotional outcomes; and 3) malaria prevention behaviors. A total of 270 families participated in the impact evaluation. In addition, qualitative interviews were conducted with a subset of 30 caregivers in order to explore their experiences in the program. 

Results

  1. The intervention was feasible and acceptable in this low-resource, post-conflict setting. 
  2. The intervention significantly reduced the use of harsh physical and psychological punishment.
  3. The intervention significantly increased caregivers’ use of positive behavior management practices and improved the quality of caregiver-child interactions.
  4. The intervention did not have a significant impact on children’s cognitive, emotional, or behavioral outcomes.
  5. The intervention did not have a significant impact on malaria prevention outcomes.
  6. Qualitative findings suggest that participants experienced unexpected positive changes in their families and communities.

Conclusions and Recommendations for Research, Policy, and Programming 

  1. Parenting interventions are feasible and can be delivered in resource-constrained, culturally diverse and post-conflict settings. 
  2. Brief parenting skills–building interventions can decrease care givers’ use of violence as a form of punishment. 
  3. Further development and longer-term testing of the program is necessary to achieve and measure multiple caregiver and child outcomes beyond parenting behaviors. 
  4. More rigorous and longitudinal research along with cost analysis is necessary to strengthen the evidence base in low-resource, post-conflict settings. 

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