Text Messaging to Improve Parental Engagement in Early Childhood Cognitive Development

Last registered on January 04, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Text Messaging to Improve Parental Engagement in Early Childhood Cognitive Development
Initial registration date
December 26, 2020

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
January 04, 2021, 9:16 AM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

Innovations for Poverty Action

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Inter-American Development Bank
PI Affiliation
Innovations for Poverty Action

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
With the suspension of childcare services during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents now more than ever play a very important role in accompanying the learning process at home. While high-income parents have the potential to make more productive investments, low-income parents may not only lack the resources, but also the knowledge on how to best support their children. Our study is an experimental evaluation of a text messaging intervention to improve parental engagement in educational activities that promote cognitive development in early childhood. In addition, we examine whether the timing of the messages has any differential impacts.

Registration Citation

Hernandez-Agramonte, Juan Manuel, Olga Namen and Emma Naslund-Hadley. 2021. "Text Messaging to Improve Parental Engagement in Early Childhood Cognitive Development." AEA RCT Registry. January 04. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6959
Experimental Details


We implement a three-month text messaging campaign to support parental engagement in early childhood development at home. This program consists of more than 50 messages targeted to low-income parents with children aged 4-5 years old who are beneficiaries of public childcare services. The content of the texts include information and actionable advice that shows parents how to promote their child's early numeracy and literacy skills in their home environment. In addition, we include motivational messages once a week with positive reinforcements to encourage parents to practice these activities. The messages are designed using behavioral tools to correct for inaccurate beliefs, assist them with goal setting and planning and develop a growth mindset for their role as parents.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We examine the impact of the intervention on: parental engagement in educational activities, children's numeracy skills and children's literacy skills.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Children's numeracy and literacy skills are collected using scores from a standardized remote assessment test on the phone and through a parent survey. Parental engagement is measured by an index constructed using parents' reports about the time spend with their child on educational activities and other productive routines and investments.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Parental wellbeing, parental perceptions of their role as caregivers, discipline practices at home and children's socio-emotional outcomes.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Parental wellbeing, perceptions and discipline practices are captured by parents' self-reported measures. Children's socio-emotional outcomes are collected through parents' reports on child's wellbeing and behaviors.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We randomly assign households into one of the following three groups: a treatment group 1 that receives the text messaging campaign from Friday to Monday, a treatment group 2 that receives the messages from Monday to Thursday and a control group that receives placebo messages with information about existing resources from the regular services. All groups receive regular virtual programs from the public childcare services.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Household level
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
3899 households
Sample size: planned number of observations
3899 households
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
There are 1542 households in the control group, 1178 households in treatment group 1 (receive the SMS campaign from Friday to Monday) and 1179 households in treatment group 2 (receive the SMS campaign from Monday to Thursday).
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
According to our calculations, with a probability of error type I of 0.05, a power equal to 0.8, in each treatment arm the minimum detectable effect for the parental engagement index is 1.63 percentage points and 0.10 SD for cognitive test scores. Pooling both treatments, the minimum detectable effect for the parental engagement index is 1.38 percentage points and 0.098 SD for cognitive test scores.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Innovations for Poverty Action
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials