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Qual Health Res. 2013 Oct;23(10):1388-98. doi: 10.1177/1049732313505916. Epub 2013 Sep 16.

Heterosexual gender relations in and around childhood risk and safety.

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1University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Injuries are a leading cause of child death, and safety interventions frequently target mothers. Fathers are largely ignored despite their increasing childcare involvement. In our qualitative study with 18 Canadian heterosexual couples parenting children 2 to 7 years old, we examined dyadic decision making and negotiations related to child safety and risk engagement in recreational activities. Parents viewed recreation as an important component of men's childcare, but women remained burdened with mundane tasks. Most couples perceived men as being more comfortable with risk than women, and three negotiation patterns emerged: fathers as risk experts; mothers countering fathers' risk; and fathers acknowledging mothers' safety concerns but persisting in risk activities. Our findings suggest that contemporary involved fathering practices privilege men in the outdoors and can erode women's control for protecting children from unintentional injury. We recommend promoting involved fathering that empowers both parents and developing injury-prevention strategies incorporating both fathers' and mothers' perspectives.


children; families, caregiving; gender, masculinity; relationships, primary partner; risk

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