Gender-equitable caregiver attitudes and education and safety of adolescent girls in South Kivu, DRC: A secondary analysis from a randomized controlled trial

Ilana Seff, Kathryn Falb, Gary Yu, Debbie Landis, Lindsay Stark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Adolescent girls face myriad threats to their well-being and safety as a result of gender-inequitable attitudes and norms, and these risks are often exacerbated during humanitarian emergencies. While humanitarian actors have begun to address caregivers' behaviors and gender attitudes as an approach to support and meet the needs of adolescent girls, best practices for working with caregivers to improve adolescent girls' well-being in these settings have yet to be identified.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: This study uses panel data from a program evaluation to analyze associations between changes in gender-equitable attitudes among caregivers and changes in schooling and violence victimization for girls ages 10 to 14 years old in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Participants were recruited in May 2015 for baseline (May to July 2015) and endline (August to October 2016) data collection. Baseline and endline data for both caregivers and girls were available for 732 girls. The average ages of adolescents and caregivers were 12 and 40.7, respectively, and 92% of caregivers were female. The predictor of interest was the change in caregivers' gender-equitable attitudes between the 2 points in time, where attitudes were measured using 10 underlying survey questions. The primary outcomes of interest were dichotomous and included improvement in schooling participation and declines in physical, sexual, and emotional violence and feeling uncared for. Logistic regression was used to estimate the association between changes in caregivers' attitudes and 5 outcomes of interest and revealed that an increase in a caregiver's gender-equitable attitude score was associated with significantly greater odds of a girl experiencing an improvement in schooling participation (aOR = 1.08, CI [1.005, 1.154], p = 0.036) and of a girl experiencing a marginal decline in physical violence victimization (aOR = 1.07, CI [0.989, 1.158], p = 0.092). Analyses also revealed that older girls had lower odds of experiencing an improvement in schooling participation (aOR = 0.77, CI [0.686, 0.861], p < 0.001), physical violence (aOR = 0.86, CI [0.757, 0.984], p = 0.028), sexual violence (aOR = 0.86, CI [0.743, 1.003], p = 0.055), or emotional violence (aOR = 0.98, CI [0.849, 1.105], p = 0.005). Important limitations in this study include the self-reported nature of outcomes, use of single questionnaire items to construct the outcome variables, and potential self-selection bias.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that supporting caregivers to increase gender equitable attitudes may be associated with benefits in dual outcomes of education and safety for adolescent girls in eastern DRC. Further research is needed to better understand how to induce a shift in these attitudes in multisectoral programming.


Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1003619
JournalPLoS Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Adolescent
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Caregivers/education
  • Child
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Safety
  • Sex Factors
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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