This study examines the impact of awareness and behaviour change interventions among parents on parenting practices, as well as early stimulation and learning.
Paternal involvement during early childcare has been seen to have a positive impact on the child’s social behavioural, cognitive academic and emotional psychological development. As early childhood is a period of greatest potential brain development in humans, it is imperative to focus on improving childcare during this period. Most of the child development programmes hinge on mothers as primary recipients of information, despite father involvement being considered impactful on child’s development. This study is an effort to gain insights into interventions that can promote early childhood development in India and other Low- and Middle-Income Countries. It explores how awareness and behaviour change among parents can have an influence parenting practices, and in turn on child development. There were two major components of the intervention strategy:
- Using information technology to disseminate information to parents through the network of Anganwadi Workers. This intervention was implemented through in-person outreach, which was strengthened through the use of computer tablets with an application called Arivu to provide tailored information, as well as electronic outreach through text messages on mobile-phones (Short Message Services, SMS) which provided targeted information on early stimulation, parenting, the involvement of fathers, and nutrition.
- Increasing the involvement of fathers in child-care by conducting regular fathers group meetings which involve selected father role models, using a calendar maintained by the mother, and providing incentives in the form of mobile phone credit.
The intervention was implemented for one year and was incorporated into the outreach of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) in Tamil Nadu. Beneficiaries of the intervention consisted of 700 children in the 0–3 years age group and 1,400 parents predominately from low socio-economic status (SES) groups, as well as 57 Anganwadi workers (AWWs), government-based community workers, belonging to the identified Anganwadi centers (AWC), or public crèches, from the districts of Madurai and Dindigul in Tamil Nadu. The Randomised Control Trial included a nested qualitative longitudinal case study in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the impact of the intervention and the path to change. While a Cluster Randomised Trial was used to test the impact of techno-social innovation in getting the fathers involved in caring for their children on child development outcomes, qualitative studies were used in order to inform the trial and to provide insights into pathways of change.
The study provides valuable insights on implementing early childhood development interventions in India that can leverage the involvement of fathers to improve the impact of child development programmes. The widespread presence of Anganwadis as a part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme across India also makes it possible to explore scale-up and replication. Results are forthcoming.