Working to Advance
Health Equity in Africa

Development of a parenting intervention to promote effective parenting practices in South Africa

Development of a parenting intervention to promote effective parenting practices in South Africa


The project aims to design and manualise an early parenting intervention, targeting women with infants under 12 months of age, to promote positive parenting and maternal coping skills. This intervention is designed for delivery in a group setting to new mothers in a peri-urban community in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This intervention forms one component of a proposed future multi-level, combination intervention to foster positive psychological, cognitive and behavioural development of the young child and reduce precursors for future risk of violence and risky sexual behaviours in South Africa. The overall goal of the proposed later study is to provide support to mothers with young infants (under 12 months), to promote parent-child interaction, and to examine the effectiveness of the intervention on parent and child outcomes including caregiver mental health, and child cognitive, emotional and psycho-social development and in doing so reduce precursors for future risk of violence and risky sexual behaviours.


  • To develop an early parenting intervention manual and digital media, in the form of five short videos and narrated animations, for group based delivery to new mothers with infants <12 months for positive caregiver-child interactions.
  • To produce final intervention materials and activities that will guide group interactions with women with young infants (<12 months), including their introduction and discussion of the digital media from Objective 1.

Methodological approach:

We are engaging with key stakeholders in a participatory design approach, including focused design meetings, and semi-structured interviews with caregivers.

The procedures are as follows:

  • Semi structured interviews with caregivers (n=30) regarding parenting values, beliefs and understandings, support networks and potential spaces for intervention implementation. We are also mapping representative institutions working in the community (eg.NGO’s, crèches, churches) to explore possible spaces for delivery of the intervention.
  • Holding a design meeting with up to 10 local key informants (community health workers, public health sector health practitioners, individuals with expertise in the areas of child rearing and/or child development). The design meeting is consultative and contributes to the design intervention components to ensure community ownership and relevance.
  • Following points 1 and 2, the research team is reviewing recommendations regarding the promotion of caregiver responsiveness to infants and young children. We are articulating locally-recognized issues faced by caregivers with young infants, and developing initial ideas about media topics and other interaction supports that would promote responsive caregiver-child interaction, strengthen maternal coping and support child developmental needs. We are drawing on the existing expertise within the team and current research on parenting practices and styles in order to produce a structured and functional model of our intervention design. We are identifying measurable outcomes, as well as potential mediators and moderators including child, parent, community and societal level factors. We are identifying validated instruments for use in SA and, where not available, are preparing instruments for pilot testing.
  • The research team develops the intervention blueprint by brainstorming approaches for intervention activities to achieve intervention objectives, fitting activities and materials to the functional model. Based on this input, the media design team, at Jive Media Africa, articulates scenarios for the videos, including simple mock-ups, written narratives and key messages.
  • Once draft media, assessments and prompts are prepared, we hold a second design meeting with the 10 key informants to elicit feedback on outputs of Point 3. Adjustments to the media, assessments and prompts are made following key informant input.
  • We hold design meetings with three groups of up to 5 caregivers to obtain feedback on the media, including their understanding of the messages conveyed, as well as input on the look and language level of the media.
  • Adjustments to the media are made following caregiver input, culminating in test versions of all media (i.e., that are suitable for field testing).
  • We field-test all developed media, assessments and interaction prompts to ensure acceptability to the caregivers they support, and to capture unforeseen design considerations.
  • Further revisions to the videos and prompts are made as required.