A stratified cluster design was used to evaluate a 10-month parenting program delivered to mothers of children in rural Bangladesh. Intervention mothers through a combination of group meetings and home visits received messages along with an illustrative card concerning hygiene, responsive feeding, play, communication, gentle discipline, and nutritious foods. Control mothers received the standard government care. Three months prior, 463 children between 4 and 14 months in a subdistrict of western Bangladesh were administered the cognitive, receptive language and expressive language Bayley III subtests, their length was taken and past week illness recorded. Gross motor milestones were reported by the mother and verified through observation. Mothers were interviewed concerning their practices: preventive health practices, dietary diversity, home stimulation, and knowledge about development milestones. Maternal depressive symptoms were assessed as a measure of emotional availability. Family sociodemographic variables included maternal education, family assets, decision-making and mobility autonomy. One month after the end of the program, mothers and their children were again assessed. Comparisons were made between intervention and control children who were under-12 months vs. 12 months and older at the start of the program. This may be a critical age, when children begin to be upright and mobile enough to explore on their own and be less dependent on parenting stimulation. Analyses yielded strong intervention effects on the three Bayley subtests and on parenting practices related to stimulation and knowledge of development milestones. Age effects were found only for dietary diversity in that younger children in the program benefited more than older ones. However, all children became more stunted. Findings are discussed in terms of theories of behaviour change and parenting, critical ages for parenting programs, and implications for program delivery.
Keywords: Bangladesh; Cognitive development; Early childhood; Language development; Length-for-age; Parenting intervention; Program evaluation.
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