Unintentional injury risk in school-age children: Examining interrelations between
parent and child factors
Melissa Wells, Barbara A. Morrongiello
, Alexa Kane
Psychology Department, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Received 10 December 2010
Received in revised form 2 May 2012
Accepted 18 May 2012
Available online 29 June 2012
Objective: Research on children's risk of injury reveals that parent and child factors are often interrelated. This
study examined relations between children's risk taking, parent appraisal of this risk taking, and children's
rate of injury in youth 8 and 9 years old.
Methods: Responses to questionnaires and laboratory tasks were used to examine whether extent of consis-
tency in children's physical risk taking related to mothers' accuracy in predicting children's risk behaviors,
and if mothers' accuracy scores, in turn, related to rate of unintentional injury for their school-age children.
Results: Child consistency in risk taking predicted parental accuracy in judging children's risk taking, and de-
gree and direction of accuracy predicted children's injury rates.
Conclusions: Parents' judgments about their children's likelihood of risk taking are inﬂuenced by children's
behavioral consistency and have implications for children's frequency of injury.
© 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In most industrialized countries, including Canada and the United
States, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for children
over 1 year of age (Canadian Institute of Child Health, 2002; Centers for
Disease Control, 2009; World Health Organization, 2008). Unintentional
injuries also result in substantial disability, medical expenses, school ab-
sences, and emotional trauma (Farchi et al., 2006; National Safe Kids
Campaign, 2004; National Safety Council, 2001; Rodriguez, 1990). The di-
rect and indirect costs of such injuries are staggering and conﬁrm the
need to reduce their occurrence (SMARTRISK, 2006). Importantly, child-
hood injuries are often both predictable and preventable (Dowd,
Keenan, & Bratton, 2002; Rimsza, Schackner, Bowen, & Marshall, 2002;
Roberts, 1993). There has been considerable interest, therefore, in identi-
fying risk factors that lead to injury so that effective prevention strategies
can be developed.
Past research reveals that numerous child attributes inﬂuence risk of
injury. For example, children are more likely to be injured if they: (a) are
male (Morrongiello, Midgett, & Shields, 2001; Rosen & Peterson, 1990);
(b) have behavior problems, such as hyperactivity, aggression, and “dif-
ﬁcult” temperaments (Schwebel, 2004a, 2004b; Schwebel, Hodgens, &
Sterling, 2006; Schwebel, Speltz, Jones, & Bardina, 2002); (c) are “sensa-
tion seekers” (i.e., seek novel, behaviorally intense and emotionally
arousing risk activities; Bijttebier, Vertommen, & Florente, 2003; Speltz,
Gonzales, Sulzbacher, & Quan, 1990); (d) are less compliant with paren-
tal demands (Morrongiello & Dawber, 1998; Morrongiello, Ondejko, &
Littlejohn, 2004a, 2004b; Morrongiello et al., 2001); (e) overestimate
their physical abilities (Plumert, 1995; Schwebel, 2004a); and (f) have
sustained previous injuries (Jaquess & Finney, 1994; Morrongiello &
A number of characteristics of parents also have been associated with
increased risk of injury to children. For example, parents of children who
experience injuries are more likely to: (a) use ineffective teaching strat-
egies and show permissive styles of parenting (Morrongiello, Corbett,
Lasenby, Johnston, & McCourt, 2006; Schwebel et al., 2006); (b) engage
in ineffective supervision practices (Morrongiello,Corbett,McCourt,&
Johnston, 2006a, 2006b; Morrongiello et al., 2001; Morrongiello et al.,
2004b; Schwebel & Brezausek, 2004; Schwebel et al., 2006); (c) enforce
fewer safety rules (Peterson & Saldana, 1996); and (d) attribute injuries
to bad luck or other external causes, as opposed to their child's behavior
(Damashek et al., 2005; Morrongiello & Dayler, 1996). Notably lacking in
past research aimed at identifying parent factors that inﬂuence children's
risk of injury is a focus on examining the extent to which parents can ac-
curately predict their children's risk taking. Additionally, a noteworthy
aspect of most past research on child injury risk is that it has focused
on either child or parent characteristics.Fewstudieshaveconsidered
interrelations between child and parent variables, despite calls for such
research (Morrongiello & Schwebel, 2008; Schwebel & Barton, 2005
and evidence that injury risk often arises from an interaction of child
and parent factors (Damashek et al., 2005; Morrongiello, Klemencic, &
Corbett, 2008). The current study addressed these issues by examining
relations between children's risk taking, parent accuracy in estimating
their children's risk taking, and children's rate of unintentional injury.
Interest in investigating mutual inﬂuences within child–parent
dyads is relatively recent in child development research. Historically,
the parent–child relationship was seen as unidirectional, with inﬂu-
ence ﬂowing from parent to child (e.g., research on types of parenting
Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 33 (2012) 189–196
⁎ Corresponding author.
E-mail address: email@example.com (B.A. Morrongiello).
0193-3973/$ – see front matter © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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