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Striking a Balance Between Risk and Protection: Fathers' Attitudes and Practices Toward Child Injury Prevention

Brussoni, Mariana PhD*†‡; Olsen, Lise PhD†‡

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: September 2011 - Volume 32 - Issue 7 - p 491-498
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31821bd1f5
Original Article

Objectives: To gain understanding of fathers' attitudes, decisions, and practices regarding the level of risk they are willing to expose their children to and the level of protection they feel is necessary.

Methods: Interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of 32 fathers of children aged 2 to 7 years in British Columbia. Questions addressed fathers' roles and typical activities with their children, child safety concerns and practices. Grounded theory methods guided data analysis.

Results: Fathers believed a central aspect of their role involved actively exploring the world with their children through physical and play-based activities. Fathers made decisions about the appropriateness of activities, striking a balance between protecting their child and exposing them to risk and new experiences. Most fathers placed high value on providing their children with risk-taking opportunities and discussed many positive aspects of risk and experiencing minor injuries. The potential for serious injury was considered in weighing decisions regarding risk engagement. A theoretical model outlining 4 decision-making characteristics for striking a balance is proposed.

Conclusion: Injury prevention interventions can benefit from understanding the meanings and priorities fathers hold about their children's safety, creating programs that resonate with fathers to increase relevance. To maximize success, messaging should consider fathers' decision-making characteristics, incorporate the importance of healthy risk taking for child development, and teach fathers how to minimize likelihood of injury in the context of being active and taking risks with their child.

From the *Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada; †British Columbia Injury Research & Prevention Unit, Vancouver, BC, Canada; ‡Child & Family Research Institute, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

An accompanying commentary appears on page 546 of this issue.

Received November 2010; accepted March 2011.

This study was supported by the Vancouver Foundation grant BCM08–0033. Career support for the first author is provided by a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research scholar award and a British Columbia Child and Family Research Institute salary award.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Address for reprints: Mariana Brussoni, PhD, BC, Injury Research & Prevention Unit, L408–4480 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6H 3V4; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.