From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Parenting programme for early prevention of gender based violence in Uganda

This 32 month project in Uganda is designing and piloting a community based parenting programme for the early prevention of sexual and gender based violence (GBV). It is a collaboration with the Child Health and Development Centre, Makerere University, the Mothers’ Union of the Anglican Church, Uganda, and the MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS, and is funded by the South African Sexual Violence Research Initiative and Bernard van Leer Foundation. The programme aims to address four familial processes associated with GBV: poor parental bonding and child attachment; harsh parenting and corporal punishment; differential socialisation by gender and parental conflict.

Two underlying and interrelated principles are to harness the target group’s existing motivation and to maximise participation, especially through solution focused discussion. Parents in rural east Africa are particularly concerned about children’s good behaviour and respect, which is a hallmark of family respectability. Many government and NGO initiatives around Children’s Rights are resisted because they are perceived to undermine children’s good behaviour. This programme will emphasise that responsive, non harsh parenting leads to better outcomes for children and does not undermine children’s good behaviour or respect for their parents. The provisional title is: Parenting for Good Behaviour and Respectability.  Within sessions we hope to follow the approach of the International Child Development Programme to: "Start with what they know, build with what they have." (Lao Tsu 700 B.C).

Building on a model pioneered by the Mothers’ Union, the intervention will be a 21 session community-based participatory parenting programme facilitated by two local parents. They will receive one to two weeks’ training, but beyond that the programme will be voluntary. If in initial community mobilisation opinion leaders are not interested in a voluntary programme it will be offered elsewhere. Unlike the Mothers’ Union programme, the first 10 sessions will be with run with mothers and fathers separately. Drawing on Stepping Stones methodology, the two groups will be brought together for sessions 11-20 and encouraged to address conflicting gendered perceptions of parenting problems.

There are four main theories underlying the intended mechanisms of the programme. First, according to attachment theory secure attachment and parental responsiveness are critical for children’s confidence, emotional regulation, empathy and cognitive development. Second, parents’ positive behavioural control can promote children’s emotional control, cooperation and affection for parents. Third, according to Social Learning Theory new behaviours are learnt through modelling behaviour, by demonstration or being taught. Finally, differential socialisation from early childhood is a key factor perpetuating gender inequalities.

The 21 sessions will include:

  • Introduction to importance of parent-child interactions from birth
  • Introduction to main stages of child development
  • Practical ways of developing close bonds with children
  • Strengthening family relationships
  • Achieving good behaviour without corporal punishment
    • retaining authority while respecting Children’s Rights
  • Encouraging child at school
  • Analysis of structural factors shaping gendered power and individual beliefs and practices
  • Challenging harmful norms of gender socialisation
  • Resolving disputes with one’s spouse
  • Encouraging men’s involvement in family life and children’s futures
    •  advocacy of positive, respectable, notions of masculinity.

We are currently in the second of three stages in developing the programme: 1) the development of the programme and manual; 2) a formative evaluation with four groups in Wakiso District, Uganda; and 3) a large scale pilot with before and after outcome evaluation. If the results are promising we will seek funding for a randomised controlled trial.

Project Staff

External Collaborators

  • Sarah Kasule
  • Carolyn Namutebi
  • Godfrey Siu
  • Flavia Zalwango