martes, 21 de julio de 2020

Civil Society Perspectives on Parenting Education and Grandparenting

The Division of Inclusive Social Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs organizes every two year and Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Family Issues. The EGM brings together experts from the academia, government, private sector and non governmental organizations. The experts are invited to provide policy recommend to the UN-System and the Member States on how to tackle various challenges the family unit faces around the world. Jose A. Vázquez, has been part of the UN EGM on Family in 2018 and most recently in 2020. He represents the International Federation for Family Development (IFFD) to the United Nations Headquarters in NY. He is also external collaborator of the Institute of Culture and Society. University of Navarra (ICS)

Historically, parenting education has been an important tool for parents and caregivers in their child rearing efforts. It might not have always been known with this term, but it is certain that from one generation to another it has been informally transmitted a set of guidelines, comprehensive education and training of parents and caregivers. The shared priority has been children well-being and risk prevention.[1]

Recently and in a more formal way, civil society at large has played a significant role in supporting parents, improving their skill-building capacities, promoting research projects and advocating for the recognition of parenting education at the local and the global level.[2] Although parenting education is a relatively novel term in the international fora, there is substantial evidence that it is a useful and cost-effective tool to improve parent-child relationships, reduce child-problem behaviors and prevent maltreatment.[3] In some cases, they are referred as family-strengthening programmes or comes together as of parenting education asn support,[4] but they all include a set of tools and activities oriented to improving how parents approach and execute their role by increasing child-rearing resources including information, knowledge, skills, social support and competencies.[5] It definitely calls governments and other stakeholders for recognition, while reinforcing the mission of the family unit as a cornerstone of child wellbeing and social development.[6]

This paper considers civil society as all stakeholders supporting and assisting families’ and caregivers’ capacities in regard to child development, including through comprehensive education, training, promoting positive parenting and enabling safe environments.[7] It is critical that perspectives shared by civil society are taken into account to improve policy design, implementation and evaluation.[8] With countries in mind, international institutions have enriched their policy reports and recommendations with valuable civil society perspectives on parenting education programmes.[9] In most cases, such programmes are designed to advice about health and nutritional issues, early simulations, child rights, gender issues and the importance of community involvement in children's wellbeing.[10] Thus, innovative solutions and evidence-based recommendations can enrich partnerships for the wellbeing of children and prevention of violent behavior.[11]

A rapid transformation has reshaped the role of parents and caregivers. Parenting education is not only mothering or fathering anymore, nor a skill required just by progenitors, but shared and acquired by grandparents and siblings alike.[12] In this paper the structure will follow parenting education landmarks of civil society perspectives and growing legitimacy in global policy making. They all have provided international organizations, governments and policymakers a better assessment of household realities and their variety of challenges.

Perspectives turned into policies

In 2014, the Declaration of the Civil Society on the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family marked a turning point for parenting education and its formal recognition in the international fora.[13] A large number of civil society organizations formally pledge to integrate a family perspective in social policy design[14]. In line with the the objectives of the anniversary, their claims included intergenerational solidarity, parenting education programmes; child-care provisions; psychological wellbeing of children and youth; prevention of violence, addictions and juvenile delinquency; school to work transitions and young adults’ economic security to facilitate family formation and stability; and the support of older members of families.[15]

Since then, civil society perspectives on parenting education and support have enriched various efforts to improve the role of parents and caregivers regarding child rights, wellbeing and social development. Parenting education programmes have shown to be instrumental at reducing several risk factors increasing the likelihood of violence against children within their families, such as family poverty, parental unemployment and low levels of parental education. Aged and staged approach in parenting education builds capacity on parents of typical and appropriate behaviours of newborns, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children, as well as appropriate caregiver responses.[16]

As a result, a myriad of references on parenting education have been included and have gained awareness in UN Agencies research projects, UN Secretary General’s reports and national policy frameworks on family, child and development.[17] For instance, in 2015, UNICEF country offices, according to their evidence, indicated that NGOs are as important as the state as providers in many regions of the world, especially in offering parenting education and support.[18] The same year, the Secretary General’s report included various parenting education programmes implemented by countries as conducive to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, references that have replicated since on following reports.[19]

Moving into 2016, SOS Children Villages, experts on family-strengthening programmes, parenting skills and family-separation prevention interventions, linked the vulnerability of children to the lack of parenting skills of their parents and caregivers.[20] In 2017, the Kenyan Government, in consultation with several civil society partners, associated family stability with responsible parenting.[21] Also, the European Union launched the largest research study with ‘FamiliesAndSocieties’, with several references to the role of both parents in upbringing children.[22] Later that year, the Report of the Third Committee on the Rights of the Child included references to parenting education in relation to strategies for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children.[23]

Finally, between 2017 and 2018, Member States adopted by consensus a groundbreaking resolution on the Follow-up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond. The General Assembly left behind a resolution in stagnation for almost a decade[24] and formally “encouraged to invest in family policies and programmes that promote strong intergenerational interactions, such as intergenerational living arrangements and parenting education, in an effort to promote inclusive urbanization, intergenerational solidarity and social cohesion”.[25]

The way forward

In addition to the institutional recognition of parenting education and the ample response from non-governmental organizations, other institutions have also played a significant role. Early in 2019, the New York Times announced the launch of their new Parenting Section. The section covers issues related to fertility and pregnancy, babies, kids and the life of parents with them. The editor committed to help parents with evidence-based solutions, relying on the deep reporting of journalists and the advice of vetted experts.[26]

The richest countries were called to the spotlight with the report on family-friendly policies in the OECD and EU. The study suggested that there is scope for those nations to improve their family policies and collect better data.[27] Later on, UN-Women shared a report examining how the transformations in families impact women’s rights. It proposed an innovative and affordable family-friendly package of policies together with the recognition of the role of grandparents and kin at home.[28] In this regard, the authors illustrate that grandmothers often carry out domestic and care work and, when possible, also share their assets and pensions.[29]

Late in 2019, following the ‘First-ever Parenting Month’[30] governments and businesses were called to invest more in policies that give parents the time and support they need to raise happy and healthy children under the motto “Early Moments Matter”. Further on, UNICEF hosted the Family-Friendly Policies Summit: Redesigning the workplace. This unprecedented initiative fixed the commitment of many public and private actors to procure paid parental leave, breastfeeding breaks, childcare and parenting education for parents around the world.[31]

Most recently, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a historical celebration of the International Day of the Families brought together substantial contributions[32]. First, the launch of the Families, Family Policy and Sustainable Development Goals Global Report. The report shows how family policies can work to affect the Goals; how the perspectives and support of non-government actors can contribute to it; and how family attributes impact those interventions. The report is designed for policy makers and practitioners as a guide in their daily work.

Second, a report on family-oriented priorities, policies and programmes in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as reported in the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. The report analyzes 127 VNRs submitted by 114 countries, where almost 90% of the Member States make specific references to family and consider family policies useful for achieving SDG1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11 and 16.

In the coming years, in addition to sharing good practices of parenting education at home, there is a growing necessity to sustain with evidence, data and literature review the social benefits of programmes aimed at improving the competences of parents, grandparents, caregivers and kinship care, especially after all the attention brought up to their role in lockdown situations due to the recent pandemic[33].

The evaluation and redesign of policies depend largely on how civil society perspectives and the implementation of various parenting education policies is followed. For many parents and caregivers, their main contribution may not be something they do, but someone they raise.

United Nations Representative
International Federation for Family Development

[1] Resolution on the ‘Follow-up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond’, A/RES/74/124,
[2] Robben, M. (2014). Parenting around the world: same task, same effort, different solutions. Family Futures. pp. 21-23.
[3] Gardner F., Montgomery P., Knerr W. (2016) Transporting Evidence-Based Parenting Programs for Child Problem Behavior (Age 3–10) Between Countries: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 45:6, 749-762.
[5] Daly, M., Bray, R., Bruckauf, Z. Byrne, J., Margaria, A., Pec’nik, N., Samms-Vaughan, M. (2015). Family and Parenting Support: Policy and Provision in a Global Context, Innocenti Insight, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence.
[6] Ward, C, Wessels, I, Lachman, J, Hutchings, J, Cluver, L, Kassanjee, R, Nhapi, R, Little, F, Gardner, F. (2020). Parenting for Lifelong Health for Young Children: a randomized controlled trial of a parenting program in South Africa to prevent harsh parenting and child conduct problems. Child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines, 61 (4), pp. 503 - 512. Piquero, A., Farrington, D., Welsh, B., Tremblay, R., & Jennings, W. (2009). Effects of early family/parent training programs on antisocial behavior and delinquency. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 5, 83–120.
[7] Resolution on the Rights of the Child, A/RES/74/133,
[8] Bogenschneider, K. (2014). Family Policy Matters: How Policymaking Affects Families and What Professionals Can Do. United States: Taylor & Francis., p. 33.
[9] Declaration of the Civil Society on the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family (2014), A/69/61,
[10] UNESCO Office Bangkok and Regional Bureau for Education in Asia and the Pacific (2019). Regional guidelines on innovative financing mechanisms and partnerships for early childhood care and education (ECCE). WHO (2016). INSPIRE: Seven strategies for ending violence against children. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO. UNESCO (2011). UNESCO‐UNICEF ECCE Policy research series regional desk review report Early Childhood care and Education Teacher Policies and Quality Standards for Community-Based Programmes in the Asia-Pacific Region.
[11] Bogenschneider, K. (2014). Family Policy Matters: How Policymaking Affects Families and What Professionals Can Do. United States: Taylor & Francis, pp.35-37. PARENTING IN AFRICA NETWORK, Mbugua, S. (Editor), Muriithi, M., Muthui, I., Ogeda, J. (2015), Opportunities for Strengthening Families Through Positive Discipline,
[12] Panter Brick, C., Burgess, A., Eggerman, M., McAllister, F., Pruett, K., & Leckman, J. F. (2014). Practitioner review: Engaging fathers–Recommendations for a game change in parenting interventions based on a systematic review of the global evidence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55(11), 1187–1212.
[13] Resolution on Preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, A/C.3/67/L.12/Rev.1.
[14] The civil society declaration on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year, proposed and disseminated by the International Federation for Family Development, was sponsored by 27 international entities and signed by over 542 civil society representatives from 285 national organizations, as well as by elected officials, academics and individuals.", A/70/61-E/2015/3, 45,
[15] Declaration of the Civil Society on the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family (2014), Cfr. European Expert Group Meeting “Confronting family poverty and social exclusion; ensuring work-family balance; advancing social integration and intergenerational solidarity in Europe” (Brussels, 6–8June 2012), Recommendations.
[16] Celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014. Report of the Secretary-General, A/70/61. Crepaldi, C., Molinuevo, D. (2013). Parenting support in Europe, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound),
[17] Ponzetti, J. (2015). Evidence-based Parenting Education: A Global Perspective, Routledge. SAVE THE CHILDREN (2012). Strengthening Families: Save the Children programs in support of child care and parenting policies,
[18] Daly, M., Bray, R., Bruckauf, Z. Byrne, J., Margaria, A., Pec’nik, N., Samms-Vaughan, M. (2015). Family and Parenting Support: Policy and Provision in a Global Context, Innocenti Insight, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence.
[19] Implementation of the Objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes Report of the Secretary-General (2015-2020),,,,,
[20] SOS Children Villages International (2016). Child at risk: The most vulnerable children, who they are and why they are at risk.
[21] Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection (Draft). Government of Kenya (2017). National Family Promotion and Protection Policy,
[22] Evertsson M., Boye K., Erman J. (2015). Fathers on call –A study on the sharing of care work among parents in Sweden. A mixed methods approach, Changing families and sustainable societies: Policy contexts and diversity over the life course and across generations. European Union's Seventh Framework Programme.
[23] Promotion and protection of the rights of children. Report of the Third Committee (2017). A/72/435,
[24] The Resolution on the ‘Follow-up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond’ was not changed since the mid 1990’s from its 8 operative points. Since 2018, it has 12 operative points pertaining to a variety of topics and realities affecting the family unit worldwide.
[25] Resolution on the ‘Follow-up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond’, (2017). A/RES/74/124,
[26] New York Times (2019). We’re Introducing a New Parenting Section, and We Want to Hear From You. New York Times (2019). Introducing our Parenting Team.
[27] Chzhen, Y., Gromada A., Rees, G. (2019), Are the world’s richest countries family friendly? Policy in the OECD and EU, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence.
[28] Ingersoll-Dayton, B., Punpuing, S., Tangchonlatip, K., Yakas, L.. (2018). Pathways to Grandparents’ Provision of Care in Skipped-Generation Households in Thailand. Ageing and Society, 38, pp. 1429–1452.
[30] UNICEF (2019). Press release: UNICEF Starts First-ever Parenting Month,
[31] UNICEF (2019). Call to action: Investing in family-friendly policies.
[32] United Nations (2020). 2020 International Day of Families “Families in Development: Copenhagen & Beijing+25”,
[33] United Nations (2020), Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on children, United Nations (2020), Policy Brief:The Impact of COVID-19 on older persons, United Nations (2020), Shared Responsibility, Global Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, United Nations General Assembly (2012), Resolution on Global Day of Parents, A/RES/66/292, SOS Children Villages International (2020). The best place for children is with their mom and dad.

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