The Mikhulu Trust is committed to delivering evidenced based parenting programmes.  As such, we carry out and support research to determine the impact of our programmes on parents and their children.

Supportive Book-Sharing

Virtually all of the research on supportive book-sharing has been done in high income countries. In recent years we have been carrying out research on the impact of providing training in supportive book-sharing to families in poor communities in sub-Saharan Africa.  In one randomised controlled trial, carried out in Khayelitsha, South Africa, families with 14 to 16 month old children received a training programme in eight weekly group sessions. The training was shown to be highly successful: parents’ book-sharing techniques improved considerably and there were substantial gains in child language, attention, and social understanding.

For further information:

Cooper, P.J., Vally, Z, Cooper, H, Sharples, A, Radford, T., Tomlinson, M. & Murray, L. (2014) Promoting mother-infant book-sharing and child cognitive development in an impoverished South African population: a pilot study. Early Childhood Education Journal, 43, 143-152.

Murray, L, De Pascalis, L, Tomlinson, M, Vally, Z, Dadomo, H, MacLachlan, B, Woodward, C, Cooper, P.J. (2016) Randomized controlled trial of a book-sharing intervention in a deprived South African community: effects on carer-infant interactions, and their relation to infant cognitive and socio-emotional outcome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,57,1370-1379.

Vally, Z, Murray, L., Tomlinson, M. & Cooper, P.J. (2015) The impact of dialogic book-sharing training on infant language and attention: a randomized controlled trial in a deprived South African community. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56, 865-873.

We are involved in further research in South Africa, Lesotho, England, America, Italy and Brazil. For further information on the South African and Lesotho work see:

Dowdall, N., Cooper, P.J., Tomlinson, M., Skeen, S., Gardner, F. and Murray, L., (2017) The Benefits of Early Book Sharing (BEBS) for child cognitive and socio-emotional development in South Africa: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials18.1, p.118.

Tomlinson, M., Skeen, S., Marlow, M., Cluver, L., Cooper, P., Murray, L., Mofokeng, S., Morley, N., Makhetha, M., Gordon, S., Esterhuizen, T. & Sherr, L. (2016) Improving early childhood care and development, HIV testing, treatment and support, and nutrition in Mokhotlong, Lesotho: a cluster randomized control trial of an integrated intervention. Trials, 17.1, 538.


Thula Sana

A preliminary study of the benefit of the Thula Sana intervention was carried out in a small series of mothers in Khayelitsha, a poor community in South Africa. A clear benefit to the mother-infant relationship was shown in comparison to a control group

On the basis of these promising findings, a full scale randomised controlled trial was conducted. This study involved almost 450 pregnant women from Khayelithsa, half of whom received the Thula Sana intervention. It produced reliable evidence of a benefit to the quality of the mother-infant relationship, as well as a benefit to the children themselves: compared to the control group, the children whose mothers received the Thula Sana intervention were significantly more likely to be securely attached to their mothers. This is important because security of attachment is known to be associated with a wide range of long term favourable outcomes.

A small randomised controlled trial of the Thula Sana intervention has recently been completed in El Salvador. Preliminary analysis of the data indicates that the intervention produced the same benefits to the mother-infant relationship child developmental as were found in the Khayelitsha study.

For further information:

Cooper, P.J., Landman, M., Tomlinson, M., Molteno, C., Swartz, L. & Murray, L. (2002). Impact of a mother—infant intervention in an indigent peri-urban South African context. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 180 (1), 76-81;

Cooper, P.J., Tomlinson, M., Swartz, L., Landman, M., Molteno, C., Stein, Al., McPherson, K. & Murray, L. (2009). Improving quality of mother-infant relationship and infant attachment in socioeconomically deprived community in South African randomised controlled trial. British Medical Journal,338:b974