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Matched analysis of parent's and children's attitudes and practices towards motor vehicle and bicycle safety: an important information gap

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The purpose of this study was to compare parents' and children's attitudes and habits towards use of bicycle helmets and car seat belts. We hypothesized that parental perception of their children's safety practices did not reflect actual behavior and further, that parental practices, rather than their beliefs about a particular safety practice, have a greater affect on their child's risk-taking behavior. The study population consisted of children in grades four and five and their parents/guardians. Participation in the cross-sectional study was voluntary and confidential anonymous questionnaires were used. In separate and independent surveys, children and parents were questioned in parallel about their knowledge, habits and attitudes toward bicycle helmet use and car safety practices. In the study, 731 students participated with 329 matched child-parent pairs. Ninety-five percent of the children own bicycles and 88% have helmets. Seventy percent of parents report their child always wears a helmet, while only 51% of children report always wearing one (p < 0.05). One-fifth of the children never wear a helmet, whereas parents think only 4% of their children never use one (p < 0.05). Parents report their children wear seat belts 92% of the time while 30% of children report not wearing one. Thirty-eight percent of children ride bicycles with their parents and wear their helmets more often than those who do not ride with their parents (p < 0.05). Parents who always wear a seat belt are more likely to have children who sit in the back seat and wear a seat belt (p < 0.05). Parents' perceptions of their children's safety practices may not be accurate and their actions do affect their children's. Injury prevention programs that target both parents and children may have a greater impact on reducing risk-taking behaviors than working with each group in isolation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2004


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