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Inj Prev. 2002 Mar;8(1):27-31.

Influence of safety gear on parental perceptions of injury risk and tolerance or children's risk taking.

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  • 1University of Guelph, Psychology Department, Ontario, Canada.



Risk compensation theory has been shown to relate to how individuals behave in areas such as traffic safety and consumer product safety. The present study examines whether risk compensation theory applies to parents' judgments about school age children's permissible risk taking under non-safety gear and safety gear conditions for seven common play situations. The extent of the child's experience with the activity and parental beliefs about safety gear efficacy were examined as possible moderators of extent of children's risk taking allowed by parents.


A telephone interview was used to obtain each parent's ratings of permissible risk taking by their child (for example, speed at which child is allowed to cycle, height allowed to climb to on a climber) under safety gear and no gear conditions, and ratings of child experience and gear efficacy.


Results confirmed risk compensation operated under all seven play situations, resulting in parents reporting they would allow significantly greater risk taking by their children under safety gear than non-safety gear conditions. Children with more experience with the activities were to be allowed greater risk taking, even when not wearing safety gear. Parents who believed more strongly in the efficacy of the safety gear to prevent injuries showed greater risk compensation. No sex differences emerged in any analyses.


Results highlight the need to communicate to parents that safety gear moderates injury risk but does not necessarily guarantee the prevention of injury, particularly if children are allowed greater risk taking when wearing safety gear.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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