For Parents, Child Household Safety is Something that Can and Needs to be Taught

I have previously posted several useful informational posts for parents about childproofing a home, but as a new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows, people might not be listening. In fact, the study shows that parents of young children can identify fewer than half of the potential safety hazards for children in their home. And, says the study, caregivers, healthcare professionals and day care workers identified even less.

Interestingly enough, the study also found that parents found more dangers when asked to identify hazards for other children than when asked to identify hazards for their own children. This led researchers to believe that many parents have adopted an erroneous overestimation of their child’s knowledge when it comes to safety, i.e. an attitude that seems to suggest that they think their own children are less vulnerable to danger or that “my child knows better.”

As to the specifics of the study, which was reported in Accident Analysis and Prevention, researchers had three groups of adults visit mock living rooms, bathrooms and child bedrooms and place stickers on anything they thought to be a hazard. Among hazardous items planted in the rooms were prescription medicines, cleaning products, and marbles. (Common inherent hazards like toilets and sinks were also included.)

Findings showed that the parents of children between the ages of 1 and 3 marked only 47 percent of the safety hazards that might be a hazard for children in general, and only 40 percent of the issues that they thought to be a hazard for their particular child. Following the same guidelines, day care employees found only 37 percent of the hazards and health care professionals came in dead last, identifying only 29 percent of the hazardous issues.

"While there were no benchmarks to assess whether this is a good or bad rate of recognition, it is concerning if it approximates behavior in real homes," the authors, doctoral student Joanna Gaines and pediatric psychologist David Schwebel of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a news release.

On the bright side, Gaines pointed out that parents can become more attuned to household hazards if they take parent related education courses or CPR. Participants in the study who had completed such training did better than others at spotting safety issues.

If you have any doubts about your ability to spot household hazards, look into taking extra precautions. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, accidents are the leading cause of death for toddlers in the United States. More than 1,300 children aged 1 and 2 years died from unintentional injuries in 2005, the last date the data was available. Being unaware of household hazards is by no means a personal failing. It is simply another aspect of parenting that parents should seek out and learn.

In the meantime, be sure to check out and pass on my post about 14 Tips for Child Proofing Your Home.