A large epidemiological study of early childhood development in low- and middle-income countries suggests that targeting parenting practices at home – particularly the presence and use of books in the household – could be an effective way to improve early childhood development. Furthermore, engaging fathers in this could add to the improvement.
The study covered 77,315 3 to 5-year-olds from 26 low- and middle-income countries.
Children’s literacy-numeracy skills (recognising letters, numbers and simple words) were linked to three family behaviours: attending an early childhood education programme, having three or more books at home, and engaging in stimulating activities with an adult. This same association has been found in high-income countries and this study reveals it also in lower income countries.
Having three or more books in the household was also linked with another child development measure, ‘learning’ – the ability to follow instructions to do something independently.
19.3% of fathers had been engaged with the child in learning activities in the previous three days. Children whose fathers were more involved scored more highly on average on literacy-numeracy.
The findings point towards the value for early childhood development of at-home reading programmes, targeting not just mothers but fathers and/or other parental figures.
Frongillo EA, Kulkarni S, Basnet S & de Castro F (2017), Family care behaviors and early childhood development in low- and middle-income countries, Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26
Photo: Sudanshu Goyal. Creative Commons.