Impacts of social protection programmes on children


What is the evidence regarding positive and negative impacts of social protection programmes on children, and more specifically, the conditions and processes that cause these outcomes? What does the literature suggest as key guiding considerations and approaches to maximise positive impacts.


The impact of social protection on children is under-researched. Key findings and insights from the literature include:

  • Multidimensional social protection systems have had positive impacts on addressing economic and human development, multiple vulnerabilities, and both social and economic inequities.
  • Child-sensitive social protection programmes are more intentionally responsive to children’s rights and vulnerabilities, addressing the range of dimensions of children’s wellbeing. They do not necessarily target children, however.
  • Social protection and child protection (e.g. combatting abuse and violence) should not be viewed as two separate sectors – social protection has great potential to decrease risks for children. Evidence on non-contributory social protection programme impacts on violence and abuse against children cautiously indicates positive protective impacts, notably on sexual violence against female adolescents.
  • Social transfers can contribute to reducing negative sexual behaviours and HIV prevention, particularly in combination with effective enabling factors (e.g. health-care services). This is by addressing underlying causes of risks – these are the structural social and economic drivers of adverse behaviours, e.g. early sexual debut, unprotected sex, dependence on men for economic security, migration for economic reasons, transactional sex.

Suggested citation

Pozarny, P. (2016). Impacts of social protection programmes on children (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1381). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.