Emma Näslund-Hadley, Juan Hernandez-Agramonte (IPA), Brunilda Osorio-Peña (MINED) & Mariella Hernandez (Visión Mundial)
According to a recent survey of 25,000 households, in El Salvador some than 100,000 young children, between 0 and 14 years of age, are growing up without the presence of their parents. This is likely a lower bound estimate. The finding supports previous ones of the United Nations, identifying Central America as one of three regions across the globe with the highest proportion of skipped generation households, where children grow up under the care of their grandparents, but without the middle-generation.
The impact of skipped generation households on educational outcomes is an understudied topic in Latin America and the motives behind this phenomenon have not previously been systematically documented. The El Salvador study examines parenting practices in different types of households in the Northern Triangle – Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador – and start to respond to the need for effective policies to support children raised in the absence of their parents.
The data from El Salvador reveals that the reasons for leaving the children with grandparents or other relatives include migration, gang recruitment, incarceration or violence-related death of parents. Children residing in households without their parents have a poverty rate of 56.6%, 9 percentage points higher than the poverty rate for households with children who are raised by their parents. We also find that the investment in children who grow up without their parents is lower than the investment in their peers, including both quality time spent with the child (e.g. play and reading) and resources (e.g. books and varieties of play materials).
Children who grow up apart from their parents reach fewer developmental milestones and have significantly lower levels of overall development than children who grow up with their parents. We find that this gap is wider for socioemotional than cognitive skills – 5.2 vs. 1.7 percentage points – highlighting the need for policy responses to help caregivers create home environments that promote children’s social and emotional development. The findings hold true also after controlling for the socioeconomic level of the household.
In July this year, MINED and the partner organizations, launched a program called Tuchan, which means “Our Home” in Nahuat. Tuchan, was always designed to be a hybrid program to provide caregivers with both virtual and face-to-face support. Yet, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was adjusted to become almost exclusively virtual, including small group support meetings, individual coaching, psychological assistance, and packages with child-development materials for each age-group from 1 through 7 years-old.
Since play is one of the best ways to learn to socialize with others, emotional self-regulation and identifying with others’ feelings, Tuchan trains caregivers in play-based approaches. The feedback from caregivers since the launch include an enhanced sense of purpose in life, boosted parenting skills, and increased time invested in the children. Or, as one beneficiary put it: “I have learnt to play more with my grandchild.”
Stay tuned for our report on the effectiveness of Tuchan, exploring through an experimental evaluation what type of caregiver support is most effective to improve child development outcomes, reduce caregiver stress, and improve wellbeing of caregivers and children.
Tuchan is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education of El Salvador (MINED), Innovation for Poverty Action, World Vision, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), supported by the ECD Innovation Fund. Also, this program is identified as an innovation in the Knowledge Hub on Early Childhood Development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Visit it to discover more innovations and resources for Early Childhood Development in the region.
How are current migration trends in in other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean influencing the share of skipped generation households? What policies would best support grandparents in raising their grandkids? Share your comments with us in the section below, or comment on Twitter @BIDEducacion #EnfoqueEducacion @poverty_action.