Connection with an adult caregiver

Export Indicator

Ratio of the proportion of OVC versus non-OVC aged 12–17 who have a positive connection with the adult they live with most of the time.
What it measures

To assess the extent to which adolescent OVC and non-OVC have a positive, emotional and stable connection with the adult they live with most of the time.
Adolescent (aged 12–17) perceptions of supportive behaviours that their primary caregiver enacts in the relationship with the adolescent, representing part of what the caregiver can do to foster a positive connection with the adolescent. In order to reach their full potential, children require basic provisions for survival (adequate food, shelter and clothing), as well as nurturing and guidance from caring adults in a predictable and stable manner. A positive, stable, emotional relationship has been shown to be one of the strongest protective factors for child and adolescent development. Children and adolescents conclude that the support they perceive from their caregivers indicates they are worthy and respectable individuals. This enhances their sense of self-worth, which, in turn, fosters self-respect and self-confidence. Further, it helps children and adolescents function successfully in society and establish positive relationships with peers and adults.


(1) Connection of OVC with adult caregiver. Numerator 1: The sum of the scores of all OVC interviewed. Denominator 1: Number of OVC interviewed.


(2) Connection of non-OVC with adult caregiver. Numerator 2: The sum of the scores of all non-OVC interviewed. Denominator 2: Number of non-OVC interviewed.


Orphan connection ratio: The ratio of (1) the average level of connection for OVC to (2) the average level of connection for non-OVC.

Method of measurement

Adolescents are asked to identify the adult they spend the most time living with. Then they are asked to indicate how often the specific adult does the following things:
1. Supports and encourages me.
2. Gives me attention and listens to me.
3. Shows me affection.
4. Praises me.
5. Comforts me.
6. Respects my sense of freedom.
7. Understands me.
8. Trusts me.
10. Gives me advice and guidance.
11. Provides for my necessities.
11. Gives me money.
12. Buys me things.
13. Has open communication with me.
14. Spends time with me.
15. Supports me in my school work. (NA if not in school).
Adolescents assign a score for each of these 15 questions, selecting from the following scoring options: 1 = not at all, 2 = hardly ever, 3 = sometimes, 4 = often, 5 = very often.

Measurement frequency

Age group:

Education: N/A

Gender: N/A

Geographic location: N/A

Pregnancy status: N/A

Sector: N/A

Target: N/A

Time period: N/A

Type of orphan: N/A

Vulnerability status: N/A

Explanation of the numerator
Explanation of the denominator
Strengths and weaknesses

This is a set of items compiled from a careful review of theory, empirical work and existing programming in many developed and developing countries. The list is a synthesis from many sources; thus, any one or two sources would not sufficiently cover the breadth. It represents, therefore, a comprehensive assessment of the supportive behaviours caregivers engage in that help create a positive connection with adolescents. It is limited, of course, to adolescent perceptions of the occurrence of these behaviours, which may or may not be consistent with how the caregiver would assess the same behaviours. Findings from samples of adolescents from Jamaica and Malawi indicate that the 15-item scale represents two relatively independent sub-dimensions: support from an adult and provision of resources from an adult. Further validations of the full 15-item scale will be conducted in early 2005 by WHO. Once analyses of those additional datasets are completed, a revision is likely to be made on the structure and item content for measuring connection to an adult. Until that is complete, it is recommended that all 15 items be used in further surveys. If it is not possible to include all 15 items, then it is recommended that 6 items be collected, and analysed separately, i.e., using separate scales for support and for provision of resources. The three items that measure ‘support’ are: comforts me, has open communication with me, and trusts me; and the three items that measure ‘provision of resources’ are: provides for my necessities, gives me money, and buys me things.
A number of studies across the world have demonstrated that adolescents who perceive that their caregivers support them in the ways we are measuring in this study have statistically higher levels of well-being and lower levels of risk behaviours. This indicator should provide information as to whether orphaned or vulnerable adolescents, compared to other adolescents, report experiencing more or less connection with the adult they spend the most time living with. Similar indicators (with many of the same components) have been tested in different cultural settings and are found to be equally relevant in all of them. There is still a possibility, however, that one or two items will not be specific to a particular culture (e.g., if perhaps youth in one culture report substantially lower levels of a certain type of connection than in other cultures). In any such case, the item should be excluded from the analysis, and the overall score for connection will be calculated based on the relevant items.

Further information