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Home Is The Most Dangerous Place

Injury Prevention Network Of Aotearoa NEW ZEALAND

29 October 2007

Home Is The Most Dangerous Place For Under Fives Parents' Perception Of "Risk" Crucial To Preventing Injury

An injury prevention conference was told today that more than half the injury deaths and half the hospital admissions from injury among preschoolers occur at home – the vast majority of them unintentional.

An Otago University researcher, Dr Jean Simpson told the conference of the Injury Prevention of Aotearoa New Zealand that although a number of important safety measures such as the installation of swimming pool fences and use of fire retardant building materials are being implemented across the country, how caregivers perceive what is likely to cause injury to young children and the response to that risk, remains an essential factor for young children’s safety at home.

The Child Home Injury Research Project for which Dr Simpson is the Principal Investigator, has been examining factors that influence parental perception of risk and their response to that risk.

"The study identified a number of possible influences on parental perception and response to risk," she said.

"These include factors that confirm what has been noted in international research, such as being confident and feeling competent about being a parent, a mother's mental health and the proximity of the adult to the child when supervising. They also include other factors that may operate in a specific way in New Zealand, for example, the work/life balance for parents, how close extended families are to parents and young children and whether extended families provide positive or negative support for keeping kids safe.

Understanding these factors is important for determining ways to influence the behaviour of those caring for children, something that is not always easy to change. There are still a number of gaps in current knowledge of how to achieve change.

Ms Simpson said the insights gained from the Child Home Injury Research Project support the notion that not only should we aim to have the physical environment designed to keep children safe at home, but that we need to think again about how we interact with that environment as parents and as a family. "For instance, some people think that all children break their arm at some stage so getting hurt is OK: actually children don't get broken arms that often. Another example is that some parents, as well as others in our society, have very high expectations of what young children can do. There are some very bright young minds out there, but they cannot be expected to keep themselves safe. They need adults to be there for them, to change the environment so as to keep them safe and to actively protect young children from harm.”

For more information on injuries in New Zealand please contact Injury Prevention Network National Manager Val Norton on 0274 966 795.

The conference is on from Monday 29 October – Wednesday 31 October at the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre.


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