“They laugh when I sing”: perceived effects of caregiver social support on child wellbeing among South African caregivers of children
Objective: Social support provided to caregivers of children has been shown to be protective for caregiver health, parenting and child psychosocial outcomes. However, little work in Southern Africa provides insight on the relationship between caregiver social support and child wellbeing. This report discusses exploratory qualitative findings from a larger mixed methods study, on caregivers’ perceptions of the pathways through which received support affects their children’s lives.
Methods: In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 24 adult primary caregivers of children (aged 10–17 years) living in an HIV-endemic resource-constrained urban South African community. Thematic analysis of the data was supported by NVivo.
Results: Caregivers perceived the social support they received to positively affect their children’s health and behaviour, both directly and through a positive influence on their (the caregivers’) mental health, parenting and decision making. Information, advice and encouragement emerged as key types of support explaining perceived effects.
Conclusion: Future research should continue to explore pathways explaining the relationship between caregiver social support and child psychosocial wellbeing with similar populations, and quantitatively investigate direct and indirect effects of potential mediating factors. Findings speak both to the importance of psychosocial support for parenting interventions and the potential to strengthen child-focused interventions through the broader family social network.