Helping Families Help Themselves: Effects of an SMS Parental and Stress Management Intervention

Last registered on February 01, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Helping Families Help Themselves: Effects of an SMS Parental and Stress Management Intervention
Initial registration date
February 01, 2021

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
February 01, 2021, 10:42 AM EST

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



Primary Investigator

ifo Institute

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Inter-American Development Bank
PI Affiliation
Inter-American Development Bank
PI Affiliation
World Bank

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic and social impacts have increased parental stress and {\color{black}{concern about a potential rise in}} child maltreatment. School closures and reduced access to social care services make the situation even more precarious for at-risk children. In this context, designing accessible digital tools that help reduce stress and improve household functioning is essential to improving parents' ability to cope with stress as well as to reduce abuse and its negative consequences on child development. Using an individual-level randomized control trial design with 3,103 caregivers, we assess the impact of a free high-dosage intervention delivered over three months to parents residing with children aged eight years or younger in El Salvador. The messages contain information, exercises, videos, and links to a blog with additional content, which caregivers can access on-demand. This pre-analysis plan outlines the evaluation plans of the research project that aims to estimate the causal effect of a mobile phone intervention providing parental stress management and positive parenting techniques on parental stress, depression, anxiety, and impulsivity in the context of parenting. In addition, we also examine the effects of the intervention on the quality of parent-child interactions including time spent in child care provision, the adoption of positive parenting, and attitudes about child maltreatment.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Amaral, Sofia et al. 2021. "Helping Families Help Themselves: Effects of an SMS Parental and Stress Management Intervention." AEA RCT Registry. February 01.
Experimental Details


The intervention consists of the delivery of 27 messages containing information, exercises, and videos on stress management and positive parenting techniques. Each message is accessible only to respondents in the treatment group.\footnote{All contents were locked to be accessible only to members in the treatment group} The content is delivered through three SMS or WhatsApp messages every week for two months. These messages contain a summary of content and links to materials---for instance, a web page (a blog)---where participants can find additional content for every topic. Participants have access to content that is delivered through videos, animations, and others with recommendations on how to practice the specific techniques. All materials were freely available to participants with free internet provision to access such content.

We evaluate the causal impact of the intervention using information from 3,103 caregivers residing with children aged eight years or younger in El Salvador. Participants enrolled in the treatment group received the intervention for seven weeks (up to 4 messages per week). Glasswing International, an NGO with extensive experience in stress-coping programs, designed and implemented the intervention. Using self-reported information collected after the intervention, we will measure the intervention's impact on caregivers' mental health, parenting skills, and child maltreatment or abuse.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Mental health status and parenting skills in terms of actions
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Parenting skills in terms of observed child behavior and social norms around child maltreatment
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
All enrolled caregivers that meet the eligibility criteria were randomly assigned to either the treatment or the control group. We assigned half of the eligible caregivers to each of the groups.

The treatment group will receive mental health and non-violent parenting intervention. Caregivers in this group received three SMS/WhatsApp per week over the course of 3 months with specific activities and techniques oriented to help them manage stressful situations, improve their mental health, and develop positive parenting techniques.

The control includes individuals that did not receive the intervention. This group includes caregivers that did not receive any text with the intervention materials. Yet, they will benefit from the intervention once the follow-up data collection was completed.

At the end of the intervention, we conducted a follow-up survey of individuals in both the control and the treatment group.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
We used stratified individual-level randomization implemented across 3,103 individuals. The stratification was done on the basis of gender and mode of data collection. The randomization was done on September 22, 2020, after the conclusion of the baseline data with 3,103 respondents. Randomization was done in Stata 16. The two groups were balanced across observable characteristics.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
The initial sample includes 3,103 caregivers. We expect an attrition rate of 30 percent which would indicate a sample of 2,170 at the endline.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
We randomized individuals across arms with an equal split. So we expect a sample of 1.550 per arm.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials


Document Name
PAP - Full Document
Document Type
Document Description
PAP - Full Document

MD5: 296c53f640bd561ba596b03cbc3c0fd8

SHA1: a9a6a70d93384b425a81e9c5fa5a81ca9aa6a993

Uploaded At: February 01, 2021


Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Universidad Francisco Gavidia, El Salvador
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