Parental stress and child stimulation practices: Examining associations with child developmental outcomes over time in Kenya and Zambia

Kenneth Okelo*, Aja Louise Murray, Josiah King, Patricia Kitsao-Wekulo, Silas Onyango, Margaret Nampijja, Bonnie Auyeung

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Parental stress often arises when parenting demands exceed the expected and actual resources available for parents to succeed in the parenting role. Parental stress is an important contributor to parent-child relationships. This, in turn, affects opportunities to engage their children in stimulating activities which could improve their development outcomes. However, limited evidence exists from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) on the association between parental stress, caregiving practices, and child developmental outcomes. Methods: The findings reported in this paper were derived from data collected through previous longitudinal work on nurturing care evaluation studies in Kisumu and Nairobi Counties in Kenya, and Chisamba District in Zambia. A total of 341 caregivers and their children who participated in the three rounds of data collection were included in this study. The children’s mean age was 9.3 (SD = 8.2) months pre-intervention, 25.5 (SD = 8.6) months in mid-intervention, and 36 (SD = 10.0) months post-intervention. The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), Parental Stress Scale (PSS), and caregiving tools were used to assess children’s developmental outcomes, parental stress, and stimulation practices, respectively. A Random Intercept Cross-Lagged Panel model (RI-CLPM) was used to determine the association between caregivers’ parenting stress, child stimulation practices, and child developmental outcomes. Results: The findings showed that caregiver stimulation practices were positively associated with developmental outcomes. Findings on the associations between parental stress and caregivers’ stimulation practices and children’s developmental outcomes were not universally supported. Conclusion: The findings show that improved caregiver stimulation practices are likely to improve children’s developmental outcomes. The policy implications of the findings from this study focus on improving parenting practices by addressing the predictors of parental stress. This includes subsidising childcare services to reduce costs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number50
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date26 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • child development
  • child stimulation practices and childcare
  • parental stress


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