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HEY BABY (Helping Empower Youth Brought up in Adversity with their Babies and Young children) is a longitudinal mixed-methods cohort study of 1046 adolescent mothers and their children. It is the first known longitudinal study in Africa to assess pathways to resilience amongst adolescent parent families living with and without HIV. 

The HEY BABY study aims to assess resilience-promoting pathways for adolescent parent families living in adversity, including young parents living in resource-constrained, HIV-affected communities. It asks two groups of research questions: What puts adolescent parents and their children at risk of disadvantage?  What services can help adolescent parents and their children?

This study’s overarching goal is to understand what can promote resilience for adolescent parents and their children in South Africa, and thus mitigate intergenerational cycles of adversity. It has four interlinked goals:

  • Examine adolescent parenthood –a challenge in its own right– when it occurs in the presence of multiple adversities common within the region: HIV-infection, abuse, orphanhood and the COVID-19 pandemic. Document the effects of HIV-exposure for children of HIV-positive parents.
  • Integrate quasi-experimental evaluations and qualitative participatory data to identify resilience-promoting factors on several adolescent parent outcomes: HIV treatment outcomes, mental and physical health, education and economic stability. Hypothesized factors will include: social welfare, school, and healthcare provisions provided by governments and community organisations, family assistance, and parenting support interventions.
  • Identify protective processes for their children, particularly examining HIV-related outcomes, developmental, cognitive and health outcomes.
  • Develop an intervention framework for building sexual and reproductive health resilience to reduce child and sexual partner exposure to HIV among young women living with HIV. 

By July 2019, end of baseline data collection, a total of 1046 adolescent mothers were enrolled into the cohort. 159 participants were from the ‘Mzantsi Wakho’ (Your South Africa) longitudinal cohort study and 887 were from open recruitment. In 2020-21, an additional 51 participants were recruited from Mzantsi Wakho. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the planned face-to-face follow-up data collection and research objectives were re-designed and adapted for remote research. Phase 1 of remote follow-up data collection began at the end of 2020 and is currently ongoing. Phase 2 data collection began in 2021 is also currently ongoing.  


South African Departments of Health, Social Development, and Basic Education
University of Cape Town
University of Oxford
University College London

Read more about the HEY BABY study here.

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