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Are parenting practices associated with the same child outcomes in sub-Saharan African countries as in high-income countries? A review and synthesis
  1. Alison M Devlin1,
  2. Daniel Wight1,
  3. Candida Fenton2
  1. 1 MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2 Cochrane Vascular, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh, Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alison M Devlin; Alison.Devlin{at}


Introduction There is increasing interest in the transferability of parenting interventions from high-income countries (HICs) to low-income countries (LICs) in order to improve child development and health outcomes. This is based on the premise that associations between parenting practices and child outcomes are similar in both settings. Many parenting interventions in HICs are evidence-based, but less evidence exists on associations of parenting practices with child outcomes in LICs, in particular, sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. This review synthesises evidence on the association of parenting practices with child outcomes in SSA in order to compare findings with those from HICs.

Methods We searched electronic databases—Web of Science, ASSIA, Embase, IBSS and PsycINFO—to identify studies from SSA that reported quantitative associations between parenting practices and child health or psychosocial outcomes (eg, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), mental health, conduct disorders). Due to inconsistent conceptual framing of parenting across studies, we used a modified version of the international WHO classification of parenting dimensions to guide synthesis of the results.

Results Forty-four studies met our inclusion criteria. They were conducted in 13 SSA countries and included cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, and were predominantly descriptive studies rather than intervention research. Synthesis of results showed that associations between patterns of parenting (‘positive’/‘harsh’) and child outcomes (including SRH, mental health and conduct disorders) in studies from SSA were broadly similar to those found in HICs.

Conclusions These findings suggest that the impacts of parenting practices on child outcomes are similar across contrasting global regions and, therefore, parenting interventions from HICs might be successfully transferred to SSA, subject to appropriate adaptation. However, this review also highlights the paucity of evidence in this area and the urgent need for higher quality studies to confirm these findings to help develop effective parenting interventions in SSA.

  • parenting
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • child and adolescent health
  • transferability
  • complex interventions
  • low income countries

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  • Handling editor Stephanie M Topp

  • Contributors DW initiated the study and determined its aims. DW, AD and CF devised the search terms and CF (Information Scientist) conducted the searches of bibliographic databases. DW and AD devised the inclusion and exclusion criteria. AD and DW conducted screening of articles and quality assessment. AD conducted data extraction, analysis and synthesis of the results. AD led on writing the article, with significant input from DW. CF contributed to writing of the Methods section. All authors have read and approved of the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was supported by the United Kingdom (UK) Medical Research Council (MRC) Complexity in Health Improvement Programme (grant number: MC_UU_12017/14).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.