Impact of Improved Father Involvement in Early Childhood Care Among Rural Indian Parents: Insights From a Cluster Randomised Trial of a Behaviour Change Intervention

Research Team: Sapna Nair, Rathish Sekar, Arvind Balaji
LEAD Centre: Public Health
Focus Area: Health Systems and Finance
Project Geography: Districts of Madurai & Dindigul, Tamil Nadu
Partner: ICDS, Tamil Nadu
Status: Completed

Background:

Paternal involvement during early childcare has been seen to have a positive impact on 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 recipient of information, despite father involvement being considered impactful on child’s development. This study is an effort to gain insights into improving 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 on child rearing practices, and in turn on child development. The overall goal is to integrate the learnings to scale up at the state level (Tamil Nadu) and to promote policy advocacy at the Central Government level.

Approach

The project sought to generate an innovative model to promote overall development of a child including both cognitive and nutritional development by two methods – (i) information technology to disseminate information to parents through a network of Anganwadi workers, (ii) using non-monetary incentives to increase the involvement of fathers in child-care. It evaluated the overall effect in the growth and mental & physical health of children in the age group of zero to three years as a result of addition of these two new components to the existing outreach model. The intervention was implemented within a Randomised Control Trial – 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.
This research study, that employed a mixed methods model with qualitative and quantitative methods employed sequentially, was run in Madurai and Dindigul districts of South India (2017-19). 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 to in order to inform the trial and to provide insights into pathways of change.

Implications

The analysis of results provide insights into the perceptions among parents and service providers, surrounding early childhood development and the role of fathers, and the changes that were brought about through the intervention. The findings will provide insights to early childhood development interventions in India to leverage involvement of father to improve impact. The widespread presence of Anganwadis as a part of The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) all over India also makes it possible to implement impact on a large-scale.