Mothers' knowledge on child development and the role of psychosocial stimulation of children
Background: Growth retardation (stunting) affects 30% of children aged 5 years and younger in developing countries. Early childhood stunting is associated with poor development. poor school achievement, poor cognition and poor educational achievement in young adults. Stimulation at a young age has been shown to reduce these deficits and improve cognition and educational achievement in stunted children. Children who receive age appropriate interactive care for cognitive and psychosocial development through a centre based learning and are supported by their families have been shown to do better at school. Such interventions can also be integrated successfully into health services for young children. Objective: To determine mothers' knowledge of child development and the role of psychosocial stimulation of children on child development. Study design: A cross-sectional study Study setting: KNH paediatrics wards and KNH well baby clinic Study population: Caretakers and their children aged 6 months to 5 years admitted in KNH paediatric wards and attending KNH well baby clinic. Methodology: A questionnaire was administered to the mothers to collect their socio-demographic characteristics and to determine their knowledge on child development and psychosocial stimulation. Mothers were involved in focus group discussions. Anthropometric measurements of the children were taken. Results: 180 primary caregivers visiting Kenyatta National Hospital together with their children were selected for the study. 115 were recruited from the- wards and 65 from the well baby clinic. Caretakers reported that they knew that their children were developing well in the following ways: 30.8% of the mothers cited weight gain, 22.2% good appetite, 20.8% lack of illnesses and 21.4% cited were playing with others. The majority of the mothers were aware of their children's motor milestones (82.8%), with only a minority mentioning language milestones (6.5%) and socioemotional milestones (6.2%). Regarding enhancement of their children's development. 60% of them cited good nutrition, with only 9.5% mentioning encouraging the child to perform the next appropriate milestone and 4.2% encouraging language development. On the consequences of poor development, 41.5% of parents cited poor health, 30% poor physical growth, 4.5% poor school performance, 4.2% poor social skills, 4.2% poor mental health. Regarding the importance of child play, 98.3% of the primary caregivers knew that child play was important for child development and 95% of them took time to play with their children. Nearly half of the children, (46.7%) spent most of their time playing with their parents, 38.9% spent most of their time playing with other children and 14.4% spent most of their time playing with the -housegirl. Age, level of education, and socio-economic status of the caregivers were not significantly correlated with knowledge on growth and development. There was no significant relationship between the children's MUAC and the mother's knowledge on growth and development. Conclusion: Parents were unaware of the long term consequences of poor development. They did not relate poor performance in school or as an adult with early child development. They were mostly aware of the motor milestones and how to enhance physical growth. The majority of the parents knew that child play is important for child development and they took time to play with their children. They all provided playing materials to their children.