The Parent Centre was established nearly 34 years ago in May 1983 as a project of Cape Town Child Welfare Society. The Centre was initially started as a primary prevention project to reduce the incidence of child abuse through the promotion of positive parenting and effective child management practices that would enhance the well-being and self-esteem of parents and children. This project later grew into a branch of Cape Town Child Welfare Society and in 1997 became an independent, registered NPO.
Many years of research, both past and current, unequivocally documents the critical role of parenting in influencing all aspects of a child’s healthy physical, emotional, psychological, cognitive and social development – and the strong link between poor parent-child attachment, ineffective, and /or neglectful and abusive parenting practices and physical, mental and social problems in children and adults. Children who are poorly attached to their parents and who have experienced neglectful and abusive parenting practices are at greater risk of having difficulties with interpersonal relationships; chronic and recurring physical health problems; mental health problems; poor lifestyle practices (e.g. substance abuse and unhealthy sexual behaviour) – and becoming perpetrators of violence acts against other children and adults, including perpetrators of domestic violence.
Positive parent-child attachment, involved, nurturing, non-violent and effective parenting is therefore vital for the healthy development of children, families, communities and society.
This kind of parenting requires parents who are confident in their role as parents, have knowledge about child development and parenting, are physically and mentally healthy, are ready to deal with the constant demands of parenting and have social support.
However, many South African parents do not have this and are vulnerable themselves. Parenting information, support and training is not universally available to all South African parents; many are still trying to deal with the legacy of apartheid – degradation and poor self-esteem; poverty; violence; social fragmentation and family breakdown; many South African mothers suffer from depression – the rate of maternal depression in South Africa is 35% i.e. one in three; 12% (i.e. one in eight) babies born in South Africa are to young mothers between the ages 15 and 19 who are often not yet ready to be a parent; 2011 estimates indicated that close to 17% of South Africa’s adult population was living with HIV; nearly eight percent of South African children live in skip-generation households, where grandparents live with, and are responsible to care for, their grandchildren. Skip-generation households are often described as “fragile” because the grandparents are struggling with their own personal health, custodial matters, financial constraints as well as the psychosocial and behavioural issues they face with their grandchildren (Department of Social Development White Paper on Families in South Africa, 2013).