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Positive parenting practices enhance learning, says study

Every second Thursday afternoon of the month, Michael leaves his office to go sit in his son's classroom at a Kampala private primary school.

There, he observes the interaction between the teacher and his son, and later helps out with homework. As RACHEAL NINSIIMA reports, it is not a miracle that Michael's son is regularly at the top of his class in tests.

New research by the Makerere University-based AfriChild Centre suggests that a positive a relationship between parenting practices and child wellbeing results in good learning outcomes.

The research, Uganda households: A study of parenting practices in three districts was designed to identify community perceptions of protective and harmful parenting practices.

Conducted in Kampala, Ibanda and Lira districts, the study surveyed 360 adults and child participants. Child participants were aged between eight and 12 years; whereas caregivers were aged 18 and above, and cared for at least one child aged between zero and eight years old.

Uwezo assessors interview a P4 pupil of Bestow PS in Gulu. Studies show parenting helps improve learning

In this study, researchers explored both positive (attitudes and behaviours that support children and promote their well-being) and negative (attitudes and behaviours that place children at risk and undermine their developmental well-being) parenting practices.

Key variables used to measure whether a behavior is positive or negative include: investing in a child’s future; the level of protection and intimate partner relationships, among others.

The researchers, Prof Neil Boothby of Columbia University and Dr Firminus Mugumya of Makerere University, interviewed participants to determine priorities considered important to providing protection to children. The most important aspect of positive parenting was identified as a parent investing in a child’s future, mostly through education.

“When a child is educated and has knowledge, the parent will have provided everything for that child, their future will be bright,” said an adult respondent in Lira.

Respondents also acknowledged income levels as a determinant of what parents could provide their children. Expectations were higher in Kampala compared to the two other districts.

Conversely, failure to invest in a child’s education through the provision of school fees and scholastic materials was the most cited attribute of negative parenting. Inadequate support for education was often linked to parental indifference or neglect.  

“I know of a father who does not help his children with their homework or help them revise their work. If they can’t go to their parent for help, where can they go?” one child respondent questioned.


According to the researchers, this study determines that there is positive parenting in the country, without a need to import it from abroad.

The research also reveals that household violence and abuse often impacted on learning abilities. Here, extreme forms of violence were identified as beating, punching, kicking, or striking a child with large objects. Such violence and abuse was frequently linked to excessive alcohol intake.

Additionally, harnessing the entrepreneurial skills of parents was cited as a core of positive parenting. Parents engaged in income-generating projects such as livestock rearing and selling goods directly impact the welfare of their children as they are able to provide for their basic needs and invest in their future. Saving is also critical in achieving financial stability.

Some 30 respondents attributed good intimate partner relationships to positive parenting compared to 204 respondents who attributed bad intimate relationships to negative parenting.

Good relationships are characterized by mutual decision-making, equitable division of responsibilities and sexual fidelity whereas troubled ones are associated with wife beating, verbal abuse and having multiple sexual partners.


Joyce Wanican, the executive director of the AfriChild centre, says experiences children have in their early lives exert a life-long impact.

“In order to seriously put children at the heart of the national development agenda, the critical role parents and households play in promoting children’s health, development, education, and protection must be recognized and supported,” she says.

Wanican urges government and local communities to adopt and strengthen models of positive parenting in order to improve children’s wellbeing.

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