The Role of Fathers in Promoting Early Childhood Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Review of the Evidence

The role of fathers in parenting young children differs dramatically across societies. Policymakers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are increasingly focused on increasing the amount of early childhood stimulation and other investments received by young children in an attempt to increase human capital accumulation, promote school readiness, and improve long-run outcomes. Until recently, few interventions targeted fathers, and most impact evaluations implicitly assumed that fathers played no meaningful role in parenting. We survey the emerging literature on fathers’ involvement in early childhood stimulation and parenting in LMICs and summarize the patterns of results from rigorous impact evaluations. We find that fathers spend less time stimulating their children’s development than do mothers or other adults who live in the same households in almost every country in our sample, and that mothers’ and fathers’ investments are positively associated. We also find evidence that fathers’ take-up of parent training programs tends to be low, but that such programs have had effects on changing fathers’ knowledge and—to a lesser degree—behaviors.

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