The parenting support that works - around the world | University of Oxford
Parenting advice created by Oxford has gone around the world
Credit: Shutterstock Parenting advice created by Oxford has gone around the world.

The parenting support that works - around the world

COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on families – and comes on top of a pandemic of violence which already affects one billion children a year globally. But, according to a report this week from leading experts in social policy, parenting support resources can be like a remedy or ‘vaccine’ for families around the world.

According to the paper ‘The Parenting Vaccine’, from Oxford’s Professor Lucie Cluver and Ben Perks, Head of Campaigns and Advocacy of UNICEF, ‘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.’

Professor Cluver maintains, ‘A universal parenting vaccine is not just an idea. It is possible – even during COVID. In the past four months, UNICEF, WHO and the University of Oxford have developed free, evidence-based COVID-19 parenting resources that have reached 66 million people. With a real effort – over the next two years of COVID impacts – we can reach all families.’

In the past four months, UNICEF, WHO and the University of Oxford have developed free, evidence-based COVID-19 parenting resources that have reached 66 million people. With a real effort – over the next two years of COVID impacts – we can reach all families

With the current crisis in mind, Professor Cluver and colleagues launched a COVID-19 international package of parenting resources, backed by UKRI. These have been translated into dozens of languages and used around the world. 

Ben Perks insists, ‘Providing support for parenting and nurturing care giving at the population level is an accelerator for prevention of neglect and abuse and their costly and lifelong impacts on mental and physical health.’

Published this week in Nature Human Behaviour, the paper argues, ‘Before COVID-19, systematic reviews identified that a billion children a year were already victims of violence, costing 2-5% of global GDP.’

It continues, ‘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.’

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.’

The COVID-19 parenting resources project is support by UK Research and Innovation through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The GCRF is a £1.5 billion UK Government fund to support cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.