The overarching goals of “Sibhekelela izingane zethu (SIZE)” or “We look out for our children” are to generate usable knowledge about how South African children are being affected by the co-occurring adversities caused by household poverty and HIV/AIDS, and to assess the reach and influence of current government-funded grants and services. To this end, researchers at New York University (NYU) and HumanSciences Research Council (HSRC)conducted a short-term (18 month) longitudinal study of 1,800 children aged 7 years, 0 months to 10 years, 11 months, and their families/households. This study was guided by the following three primary aims: 1) to examine the influences of various household risk factors and child experiences on child well-being; 2) to examine the influences of various grants and services on child well-being; and 3) to examine the influences of various community factors on the relationships a) between household influences and child well-being; and b) between policy influences (i.e., grants and services) and child well-being. Studying children who were 7 to almost 11 years old at the start of the study and 8.5 to almost 12.5 years at the 1.5-year follow-up allowed the project to optimally address these aims, as children were followed at the peak ages for orphaning, and while they were still in primary school.
Study participants (children and their households) were systematically sampled from 24 communities in the Msunduzi municipality in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), which is characterized by high rates of both household poverty and parental illness and death. This area was chosen for its geographic representativeness of South Africa, and has a population that is 95% Zulu. Each community was selected based upon the presence of a school serving 7-10 year old children, and was demarcated using a combination of data about both the school’s catchment area and geographic boundaries identified by aerial maps. Aerial mapping was then used to identify and enumerate all households within each geographically bounded community. A small number of households (approximately 20) were randomly selected from each community for use as cluster nodes, around each of which a cluster of the nearest 30 households was selected. All households in each cluster (including the cluster node) were screened for eligibility for the study. Eligible households (defined as those which served as primary residences for at least one child aged 7-10 years and whose members spoke isiZulu) were recruited to the study. This process was repeated until approximately 75 households in each large community were enrolled in the study. In very small, rural communities, all households were screened for eligibility, and all eligible households in the community were recruited to the study.
A total of approximately 1,800 households were recruited to the study. Following a consent process, one member of each household completed a face-to-face survey about the household conducted in isiZulu. At a later date, following an additional consent process, the primary caregiver of the 7-10 year old focal child in each household completed a face-to-face survey about himself or herself and about the child. In approximately 85% of households, the caregiver was the same person who completed the household survey. At a third date, following an additional consent process, the focal child completed both a face-to-face survey and a series of cognitive assessments. All survey responses were recorded electronically. Respondents were compensated for their time with a food parcel valued at approximately R30 ($5). A second wave of data collection for all three surveys, following the first wave by approximately 18 months, is currently underway. The institutional review boards at both NYU and HSRC approved all study procedures.
PI: Larry Aber