Blueprint for evaluating scale-up of promising parenting programmes

Child playing with guardian in sea

A new protocol paper outlines an approach to evaluating the dissemination and scale-up of two programmes aimed at improving parenting practices and reducing violence against children.

The Scale-Up of Parenting Evaluation Research (SUPER) study uses a range of methods to study the dissemination of these two evidence-based programmes: Parenting for Lifelong Health (PLH) for Young Children, and PLH for Parents and Teens. Both programmes involve facilitated group-based sessions, often supplemented by home visits, and have been designed and tested in randomised controlled trials in partnership with colleagues from UNICEF and the WHO, as well as the universities of Bangor, Cape Town, Oxford and Stellenbosch.

The SUPER study builds on a unique opportunity to learn from the implementation of these two research-informed parenting programmes, delivered in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) and outside of research settings. The study is also making all the materials – including interview guides used by researchers and family questionnaires offered to implementing organisations – openly available on the project’s Open Science Framework page to help with the implementation and evaluation of parenting programmes by other organisations.

Protocol author Dr Yulia Shenderovich, of Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention, said: ‘Some estimates suggest that around 1 billion children experience some form of violence each year – that’s nearly half of all the children in the world. Eliminating violence against children and the risk of violence against children is a hugely important goal, and parenting programmes are one of the promising ways to achieve this.’

The SUPER study will examine five areas relating to the two PLH programmes, which have been developed since 2012 and rolled out in over 25 LMIC countries – mainly in Africa. Those areas are: 

•    The process and extent of dissemination and scale-up.
•    How the programmes are implemented, and the factors associated with variation in implementation.
•    Violence against children and family outcomes before and after programme implementation.
•    Barriers and facilitators to sustained programme delivery.
•    Costs and resources needed for implementation.

Primary data collection, focused on three case study projects, will include interviews and focus groups with programme facilitators, coordinators, funders and other stakeholders, and a summary of key organisational characteristics. Programme reports and budgets will be reviewed as part of relevant contextual information. 

Secondary data analysis of routine data collected within ongoing implementation and existing research studies will explore family enrolment and attendance, as well as family reports of parenting practices, violence against children, child behaviour, and child and caregiver wellbeing before and after programme participation. Researchers will also examine data on staff sociodemographic and professional background, and their competent adherence to the programme, collected as part of staff training and certification.

The project, say the researchers, ‘will be the first of its kind to draw on multiple data sources and methods to examine the dissemination and scale-up of a parenting programme across multiple LMIC contexts’. They add: ‘While this study reports on the implementation of two specific parenting programmes, we anticipate that our findings will be of relevance across the field of parenting, as well as other violence prevention and social programmes.’

The paper ‘Evaluating the dissemination and scale-up of two evidence-based parenting interventions to reduce violence against children: study protocol’ is published in the journal Implementation Science Communications (open access).

The SUPER study was set up by Professor Catherine L. Ward, Professor Lucie Cluver, Dr Jamie Lachman, Dr Yulia Shenderovich and colleagues, and has received funding from a range of sources, including the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, the UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund, and the National Research Foundation of South Africa.

Citation: Shenderovich, Y., Ward, C.L., Lachman, J.M. et al. Evaluating the dissemination and scale-up of two evidence-based parenting interventions to reduce violence against children: study protocol. Implement Sci Commun 1, 109 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43058-020-00086-6