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.

Measuring parent-child relationships: Uganda

There is considerable evidence showing that family influences, and particularly parenting, have a major influence on young people’s lives and health-related behaviours, including sexual decision making. Parents exercise enormous influence on their children, shaping their cognitive development, emotions, worldview and, consequently, their behaviour, although as they grow up children increasingly shape this interaction. However, the specific processes within families that lead to particular outcomes for children are not clearly understood. Recognising the importance of parent-child relationships, there are an increasing number of parenting interventions being delivered in east Africa. However, few have been rigorously evaluated.

One reason why the effects of family processes on children’s health outcomes remain unclear, and why it is difficult to establish whether and how parenting interventions work, is the difficulty of learning what goes on within families. There are now a large number of self-report measures of family functioning which have been well validated in high income countries, usually the USA. In low income countries there has been far less research to validate measures of family processes, particularly with children. A dimension that might broadly be termed ‘Connectedness’ has been investigated in Kenya and South Africa, and parental monitoring or behavioural control has been investigated in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Burkina Faso and Malawi. As far as we know, parental psychological control has only been investigated in South Africa.

The objectives of this small scale study are:
1. To develop valid parental self-report measures of key dimensions of parent-child relationships.
2. To develop valid child (around 12 years old) self-report measures of key dimensions of parent-child relationships.

By ‘parents’ we are referring to any primary care giver. Following exploratory research in southern Uganda to explore indigenous concepts and terminology around parenting, parent and child questionnaires were develped, tested cognitively, revised and then piloted with 100 parents and 100 children. Second drafts were develped to address ceiling effects and strengthen the coherence of scales. These are currently being piloted with a further 100 parents and 100 children. Following subsequent revisions to the questionnaires we will conduct  test-retests of reliability.

It is hoped that these measures will improve our understanding of parent-child relationships and the evaluation of parenting interventions in east Africa, particularly those interventions intended to modify patterns of authoritarian parenting or predominant gender roles. Although the  work is being conducted in Uganda it is anticipated that the measures being developed will be appropriate in other societies in sub-Saharan Africa with broadly similar cultures, subject to sensitive translation.

The study will be conducted by staff at MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS and will be supervised by Janet Seeley. There will be two phases.
1. Cognitive testing of existing and new measures of parent-child relationships and refining these measures, using a convenience sample.
2. Once promising questionnaires have been developed they will be administered with large enough samples of parents and children to test for ceiling effects, response consistency, coherence of measures, etc.. It is anticipated that questions will have to be modified in the light of this pilot and revised questionnaires will be tested a second time with different samples of the same size. Approximately one month after administration of the revised questionnaires there will be a test of reliability with a sub-sample of parents and children.

Project Staff

External Collaborators