Nurturing Care for Early Childhood Development: Path to Improving Child Outcomes in Africa


nurturing care, child development, Africa, child outcomes


The importance of early childhood development has been on the radar of social scientists for decades, yet its connection to global development potential is relatively new. In May 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) outlined a Nurturing Care Framework (NCF) to improve childhood development, claiming that one of the best ways a country can improve prosperity, economic growth, equitable opportunities, and reduce social inequalities is simple: invest in early childhood development. The WHO components of the NCF include: (1) good health, (2) adequate nutrition, (3) responsive caregiving, (4) opportunities for early learning, and (5) security and safety. Many of the existing discussions on improved child development focus on one avenue to improve child development and fail to compare various possible avenues to determine which is most critical. This paper utilizes Demographic and Health Survey data and WomanStats data from 7 African countries to determine the most influential factor to improve early childhood development for 36–59-month-old children, among those listed in the NCF. Measures of child development include: understanding words and numbers, ability to follow instruction, independence, playing with others, and distractibility. Though all five components of the NCF are necessary, understanding the most influential will streamline efforts moving forward. Results suggest that early learning opportunities and security and safety are most crucial to early childhood development, providing a clear path forward for governments, aid organizations, and households.

Original Publication Citation

Pierce, H. Nurturing Care for Early Childhood Development: Path to Improving Child Outcomes in Africa. Population Research Policy Review (2020).

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


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Population Research and Policy Review




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor