It is widely recognised that poverty undermines early childhood development (ECD). In turn, poor childhood development reinforces the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Social protection could break this negative cycle by reducing poverty and addressing biological and psychosocial risk factors. In this study, we examine the effects of a relatively new wave of social protection and anti-poverty interventions – so-called ‘graduation programmes’ – on psychosocial risk factors in a context of widespread poverty and poor outcomes for children in rural Haiti.
Using a mixed-methods approach, we find positive effects on maternal mental health and on children’s exposure to harsh corporal punishment. We find no discernible impact on exposure to violence inside and outside of the home, attitudes to child disciplining practices or child stimulation practices. Greater ability to meet children’s basic needs and positive support from programme staff contribute to positive effects.
The ubiquity of violence, notions of play being replaced with a focus on discipline as babies turn toddlers and women struggling to combine child care with paid work and domestic chores serve as explanations for lack of impact. Findings point to the potential and limitations of social protection and anti-poverty interventions to address pernicious issues such as poor ECD outcomes and highlight the importance of a multi-sectoral approach.