Informing Mothers about the Benefits of Conversing with Infants: Experimental Evidence from Ghana
Despite the well-established importance of verbal engagement for infant language and cognitive development, many parents in low-income contexts do not converse with their infants regularly. We report on a randomized field experiment evaluating a low-cost intervention that aims to raise verbal engagement with infants by showing recent or expectant mothers a 3-minute informational video and giving them a themed wall calendar. Six to eight months later, mothers selected for the intervention report greater belief in the benefits of verbally engaging with infants, more frequent parent-infant conversations, and that their infants have more advanced language and cognitive skills. We measure positive but noisy effects on parental verbal inputs in a day-long recording and on surveyor-observed infant cognitive skills. The intervention could be delivered to expectant mothers through existing health clinics at very low marginal cost so could be a highly cost-effective early childhood development policy in low-income contexts.