Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Responsive caregiving: interventions and outcomes

Neir Eshel, Bernadette Daelmans, Meena Cabral de Mello, & Jose-Carlos Martines

ABSTRACT

In addition to food, sanitation and access to health facilities children require adequate care at home for survival and optimal development. Responsiveness, a mother’s/caregiver’s prompt, contingent and appropriate interaction with the child, is a vital parenting tool with wide-ranging benefits for the child, from better cognitive and psychosocial development to protection from disease and mortality. We examined two facets of responsive parenting — its role in child health and development and the effectiveness of interventions to enhance it — by conducting a systematic review of literature from both developed and developing countries. Our results revealed that interventions are effective in enhancing maternal responsiveness, resulting in better child health and development, especially for the neediest populations. Since these interventions were feasible even in poor settings, they have great potential in helping us achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We suggest that responsiveness interventions be integrated into child survival strategies.

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