Parental Attitudes, Roles and Influences on Decision Making for Child Well-being on the South Coast of Kenya: a Descriptive Study

Kennedy Sonkola, Jane Dene Kvalsvig*, Inge Brouwer, Penny Holding, Myra Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


While it is well-accepted that mothers play a key role in child health outcomes, the role of the father is less well understood. This study, the first of two investigations of the relationship between the social environment and child health, growth and development, was nested in a child nutrition programme carried out in Kwale County. At present child health services are largely administered through government Mother and Child Health programmes. Previous community consultations have raised the need to include all family members, particularly fathers, in the process of addressing child health and development issues. To provide a background to planning for inclusion of the wider family this study investigated local attitudes and beliefs towards parenting and how these may influence child health outcomes. In this study, we used qualitative in-depth interviews of 61 co-habiting couples with fathers and mothers interviewed separately, analysed using NVivo 10 software, to look for patterns of responses with regards to attitudes and behaviours relevant to child health. The study findings suggested that both mothers and fathers overall valued their status as parents and were willing to be involved in promoting the well-being of their children. Fathers and mothers saw that they carried out a different role, and drew on different influences in their decision making and role definition. The main barrier to direct paternal involvement in the health care of their children was reported to be the cost of attendance at clinics, both in terms of time and money. Innovation in how medical services engage with families is required to increase the supportive role that fathers can provide by using opportunities such as community meetings where men gather to explain child health risks and preventative measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-71
JournalChild Care in Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Africa
  • Child health
  • fathers
  • mothers
  • parenting

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