Bergen Summer Research School

Responsive caregiving in complex emergencies

This course will address different components of nurturing care and how these are linked, relating to children’s development, parenting and caregiving, with a particular focus on the importance of responsive caregiving and its buffering effect in contexts of poverty, conflicts, and disasters.

Displaced family from (Luhansk) eastern Ukraine
Unicef Ukraine (CC BY 2.0)

Main content

Course leaders 
Ragnhild Dybdahl, Associate Professor of global mental health at Centre for Crisis Psychology at UiB and programme director at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
Unni Heltne, PhD candidate at Centre for Crisis Psychology, UiB.
Henriette Risvoll, PhD candidate at Centre for Crisis Psychology, UiB.

Course description
The students will get knowledge and skills to promote responsive caregiving in complex emergencies, reflecting on context and ethical aspects, and exploring research practice and methods.

This course addresses the relationship between the different components of nurturing care, focussing on responsive caregiving. All children need nurturing care for their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Nurturing care can also protect children who live in contexts of poverty and humanitarian emergencies. 

The students will learn about effects of parental stress and distress, and the potential buffering effect of nurturing care and responsive caregiving. An overview of strategic actions for promoting nurturing care at international and country level will be provided, but the main focus will be on practical and evidence-based ways to strengthen and support caregivers in high stress contexts. 

In a combination of lectures and group work, topics to be discussed include:

  • Children’s development (ECD), parenting and responsive caregiving
  • Integrated and multi-sectorial approaches
  • Parenting programmes - adapting and implementing interventions,
  • Feeding and responsive care
  • Complex emergencies and trauma-focussed interventions
  • Researching caregiving interventions in complex emergencies

Learning outcomes

  • Knowledge about the effects of poverty, conflict, and disasters on families, caregivers and children
  • Knowledge about the effects of parental distress on children
  • Knowledge about the components of nurturing care and how these influence mental health and psychosocial wellbeing
  • Knowledge about how responsive caregiving is affected by and influences the other components
  • Knowledge about strategic actions to promote nurturing care
  • Knowledge about evidence for parenting programmes
  • Skills for supporting parents and caregivers in humanitarian emergencies

Reading list          

Alleyne-Green, B., Kulick, A., Grocher, K. B., DeLoach McCutcheon, K. P., & Betancourt, T. S. (2019). The impact of war violence exposure and psychological distress on parenting practices among a sample of young adults affected by war postconflict Sierra Leone. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 25(4), 325.

Betancourt, Theresa S., Ms Sarah E. Meyers-Ohki, Ms Alexandra P. Charrow, and Wietse A. Tol. "Interventions for children affected by war: an ecological perspective on psychosocial support and mental health care." Harvard review of psychiatry 21, no. 2 (2013): 70.

Bornstein, M. H., Kotler, J. A., & Lansford, J. E. (2022). The Future of Parenting Programs: An Introduction. Parenting, 22(3), 189-200. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295192.2022.2086808

Britto, P. R., Lye, S. J., Proulx, K., Yousafzai, A. K., Matthews, S. G., Vaivada, T., ... & Lancet Early Childhood Development Series Steering Committee. (2017). Nurturing care: promoting early childhood development. The Lancet, 389(10064), 91-102.

Gladstone, M., Phuka, J., Mirdamadi, S., Chidzalo, K., Chitimbe, F., Koenraads, M., & Maleta, K. (2018). The care, stimulation and nutrition of children from 0-2 in Malawi—Perspectives from caregivers; "Who’s holding the baby?". PLOS ONE, 13(6), e0199757. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0199757

Hentschel, E., Yousafzai, A. K., & Aboud, F. E. (2021). The Nurturing Care Framework: Indicators for Measuring Responsive Care and Early Learning Activities. https://nurturing-care.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Proposed_indicators.pdf

Jeong, J., Franchett, E. E., Ramos de Oliveira, C. V., Rehmani, K., & Yousafzai, A. K. (2021). Parenting interventions to promote early child development in the first three years of life: A global systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS medicine, 18(5).

Miller, K. E., Ghalayini, H., Arnous, M., Tossyeh, F., Chen, A., van den Broek, M., ... & Jordans, M. J. (2020). Strengthening parenting in conflict-affected communities: development of the Caregiver Support Intervention. Global Mental Health, 7

Panter-Brick, C., Eggerman, M., Ager, A., Hadfield, K., & Dajani, R. (2020). Measuring the psychosocial, biological, and cognitive signatures of profound stress in humanitarian settings: impacts, challenges, and strategies in the field. Conflict and health, 14(1), 1-7.

Pedersen, G. A., Smallegange, E., Coetzee, A., Hartog, K., Turner, J., Jordans, M. J., & Brown, F. L. (2019). A systematic review of the evidence for family and parenting interventions in low-and middle-income countries: child and youth mental health outcomes. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28(8).


Participation at the BSRS is credited under the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). Participants submitting an essay, in a form of a publishable manuscript of 10-20 pages, after the end of the summer school will receive 10 ECTS. Deadline for submission will be decided by your course leader.

It is also possible to participate without producing an essay. This will give you 5 ECTS. In order to receive credits, we expect full participation in the course-specific modules, plenary events and roundtables.

Course leader

Ragnhild Dybdahl is associate professor of global mental health at Centre for Crisis Psychology at UiB and programme director at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. She has more than 20 years of experience from international development collaboration, including research, humanitarian aid, and diplomacy. Her research interests are global mental health, early childhood development and applied psychology.