Background: There is emerging evidence regarding the effectiveness of parenting programmes to reduce the risk of violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. However, in highly-deprived communities, parenting programmes may require additional economic support to address the negative impact of poverty on parenting and risk of abuse.
Objectives: This study is the first to use a cluster randomised-controlled trial to examine the effects of parenting and economic strengthening on reducing the risk of violence against children in impoverished farming communities in rural Tanzania.
Methods: Participating villages were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 conditions: a) 12-session group-based parenting programme; b) agribusiness training; c) combination of parenting and agribusiness programmes; and, d) or 1-year wait-list control (N = 8 villages, 247 families, 2:2:2:2 arm ratios). Primary outcomes assessed at baseline, mid-treatment, and 1-year post-baseline included harsh and positive parenting as well as attitudes towards corporal punishment. Secondary outcomes included household poverty, parenting stress, caregiver/child depression, child behaviour, nutrition, development and labor.
Results: Analyses found significant effects in reducing child maltreatment for villages receiving the parenting component in comparison to controls. Significant decreases in parents’ acceptability of corporal punishment and children’s report of harsh discipline were detected in the combine intervention group. Reductions in household poverty were found in the combined intervention and agribusiness training-only groups. There were no significant intervention effects for any other outcomes.
Conclusions: Results suggest that while agribusiness training may reduce household poverty, parenting training may be essential to reduce child maltreatment in rural Tanzania. However, further intervention refinement may be necessary due to no improvements in other outcomes. It is also recommended that future research incorporates a factorial experimental design with a larger sample size with and longer-term follow-up assessments to determine the distinct effect of intervention components.