Connection to a parent or primary caregiver

Export Indicator

The percentage of young people who feel connected with their parents and/or primary caregivers.
What it measures

This indicator measures the percentage of adolescents aged 10-19 who feel connected with their parents or primary caregivers. This is one of the key aspects of the environment in which young people live. “Connection” is measured in terms of the closeness of relationships between adolescents and parents or primary caregivers. Adolescents who perceive that their caregivers support them in the ways measured in this indicator have statistically higher levels of well-being and lower levels of risk behaviours. Adolescents who live in a family where there is conflict are more likely to experience depression and use illicit substances. HIV is ultimately driven by individual behaviour; however, the context in which young people grow up and make decisions, including sexual decisions, contributes greatly to the types of decisions taken (i.e. whether to engage in risk behaviour). Connection describes one aspect of this context, in this case the family context, and its contribution to adolescent health and development. A set of items has been compiled from a careful review of theory, empirical work and existing programming in many developed and developing countries. It therefore represents a comprehensive assessment of the supportive behaviours of caregivers which help to create a positive connection with adolescents. It is limited, of course, to the perceptions among adolescents of the occurrence of these behaviours, which may or may not be consistent with how the caregivers would assess the same behaviours.


The number of young people aged 10-19 in each of the three connection categories (low, medium and high).


The number of young people aged 10-19 years.

Method of measurement

This indicator is measured by calculating proportions or a mean score from 15 attitudinal items in a survey that includes young people. The items for measuring connection have been tested and validated in 12 different cultural settings. The 15 statements that comprise the connection indicator are about the young person’s relationship with parents or primary carergivers. The respondents are asked to choose from a list of adults, e.g. mother, father, grandparent, aunt/uncle and guardian, the one with whom they spend most time. They are asked to choose an answer for each statement from a three-point Likert-type scale, indicating whether the primary caregiver does each stated thing (i) not at all, (ii) sometimes, or (iii) often, with scores of 1, 2 and 3 respectively. The statements are as follows.
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.
9. Gives me advice and guidance.
10. 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 (not applicable if the respondent does not attend school).
The results are calculated as the proportions of young people who feel little, somewhat, or very connected to their parents or caregivers. As the scale has only three items the results can be categorized as low, medium and high connection. In addition, the outcome can be correlated with the health behaviour or health outcome of interest, e.g. sexual initiation or condom use. This yields a measure of the importance of positive connection between young people and parents or caregivers and its effect on behaviour and health outcomes. This indicator should be presented as separate percentages for males and females, disaggregated by age in the following groups: 10–14, 15–19 and 10-19 (six categories). If suitable data are not available this indicator should not be reported.
NOTE: this indicator is most relevant for the youngest age group (ages 10-14), as parental relationships tend to be more influential in early adolescence. In many countries, age 18 is considered as legal adulthood, in which case the indicator might be more significant for young people aged 17 or younger.

Measurement frequency

Age group: 10 years - 14 years, 10 years - 19 years, 15 years - 19 years

Education: N/A

Gender: Male, Female

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

It is often difficult to address contextual factors through programmes. Connection to parents is, however, one such factor that has been addressed programmatically. This has usually been done by focusing on the improvement of communication between parents and adolescents, particularly on sensitive issues such as sexual and reproductive health, through campaigns of information and communication targeted at parents and through school-based efforts to involve parents more actively in communication with their children. While connection is certainly composed of different aspects of the parent-child relationship, open and positive communication is an important aspect of connection and one that can be successfully promoted through interventions. Where the level of connection is low It may be desirable to have programmes for parents or primary caregivers or to provide alternative mentors. In such a programme, evaluators may use this indicator as an intermediate outcome indicator in order to measure improvements in the social environment for young people in the programme’s intended population.
NOTE: this indicator should be interpreted together with the measure for parental regulation of adolescent behaviour (see the following indicator), which focuses on parental knowledge of adolescent actions, an aspect of parental regulation related to structure and boundaries, particularly around young people’s behaviours. Evidence has recently been published that both positive connection combined with regulation by parents and caregivers contribute most effectively to young people’s positive health and development outcomes.

Further information