Tackling COVID-19 child neglect and violence: The parenting 'vaccine'

Close up of child and parent linked hand in hand

Today, in an article published in Nature Human Behaviour, Professor Lucie Cluver and Benjamin Perks, of UNICEF and the University of Birmingham, call for a 'vaccine' against neglect and abuse in the lives of children. 

According to the correspondence ‘The Parenting Vaccine’, the world is waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine but, ‘Challenges of parenting under the strain of the epidemic are near-universal...the situation of fragile families affected by violence and neglect has worsened, abusers have had increased impunity and victims have been cut off.’

The pair’s article argues, ‘Before COVID-19, systematic reviews identified that a billion children a year were already victims of violence, costing 2-5% of global GDP.’

They continue, ‘What we need is a ‘vaccine’ against neglect and abuse in the lives of children. And recent research shows that a cost-effective preventative service does exist....this builds on decades of previous research. Evidence-based parenting programmes support families with the common challenges of raising children while respecting parents’ capacity to solve problems.... In the past two years, randomised controlled trials have shown that families accessing parenting programmes have reductions in violence, mental health problems, alcohol use and extreme poverty.’

Arguing that a parenting ‘vaccine’, of preventative measures, would both break the cycle of violence and save the international community funds, the article says, ‘Delivery costs in countries that have scaled up non-commercial parenting programmes nationally, such as the Philippines and South Africa, is around $18 per family – similar to a standard flu vaccine...

‘The world needs a universal, public health approach both to prevent COVID-19, and also to break the inter-generational transmission of toxic stress that the pandemic has exposed.’

Access the full article on the Nature Human Behaviour website

Citation: Perks, B., Cluver, L.D. The parenting ‘vaccine’. Nat Hum Behav (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0932-8