Harsh Parenting and Violence Against Children: A Trial with Ultrapoor Families in Francophone West Africa

Leyla Ismayilova & Leyla Karimli - Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology


Few culturally congruent interventions are available to reduce abusive practices in families living in abject poverty in francophone West Africa. This study tests the effects of economic intervention—alone and in combination with a family-focused component—on parenting outcomes and children’s reports of violence in rural Burkina Faso. Female caregivers and their 10- to 15-year-old children from 360 ultrapoor families were recruited to participate in a parallel cluster randomized control trial with 3 study arms: the waitlist (control) group, the economic intervention group (Trickle Up [TU]), and the economic intervention plus family coaching group (TU+). Effects were tested using repeated-measures mixed-effects regressions. At 12 months from baseline, caregivers from the TU+ group reported a reduced use of harsh discipline compared to the control group (Cohen’s = –0.57, p = .001) and the TU group (= –0.48, p = .001). Changes were maintained at 24 months. TU+ caregivers also expressed more supportive parenting attitudes at 12 months compared to the control group (= 0.39, p = .022) and the TU group (= 0.55, p = .001). Compared to TU caregivers, caregivers in the TU+ group also reported a better quality of child–parent relationship (= 0.40, p = .041). At 24 months, children in the TU+ group had lower odds of experiencing physical (odds ratio = 0.35, p = .050), 95% confidence interval [0.12, 1.00], and emotional (odds ratio = 0.52, p = .033), 95% confidence interval [0.28, 0.95], violence at home, compared to the control group children. The evidence suggests that involving all family members in sessions on child protection in addition to economic strengthening strategies can foster supportive parenting environments and reduce family violence among children living in ultralevel poverty in West Africa.