Injury control in childhood

Pediatr Clin North Am. 1992 Jun;39(3):471-85. doi: 10.1016/s0031-3955(16)38339-0.


The behavior and environment of individuals are key determinants of both unintentional and intentional injuries in childhood and adolescence. These two determinants often interact so that certain behaviors lead to different injury outcomes depending on the environmental context of the injury. For example, depression is more likely to lead to suicide in the presence of alcohol intoxication. Alcohol intoxication is much more likely to lead to the choice of a firearm in a suicide attempt. Children with poor pedestrian crossing skills are far more likely to be hit in a busy urban intersection than in a safer location. The science of injury control has attempted to learn more about both the behavioral, environmental, and agent characteristics that lead to injury. Each of these dimensions offers opportunities for injury prevention or amelioration of the outcome. Despite increasing knowledge about how certain behaviors are associated with specific types of injuries, there has been only limited success achieved by attempts to modify behavior, particularly by persuasion or education. More success has been derived by legislative mandates. The most success, particularly in the prevention of unintentional injury, has been achieved by modification of the environments and the agents that are most often associated with injury. Because intentional injuries involve extremely complex and aberrant behavior, there is a persistent concern that attempts to modify the environment (e.g., handgun control) will be overridden by those with a high level of intent, i.e., they will seek another method. Although this may be true for carefully premeditated acts, suicide attempts and assaults by youth are usually precipitated by an acute stressor that depends on the availability of a weapon at that immediate time. While we develop more sophisticated psychosocial epidemiologic models that accurately predict violent behavior, we must continue to analyze aspects of intentional injuries that offer an opportunity to reduce the injury severity after the injury has occurred. Pediatricians and other health providers of children have played three important historical roles in the field of injury control. As clinicians, we have a unique opportunity to discuss these concerns with our patients and use our influence to attempt to modify individual behavior and inform about risks. As investigators, pediatricians have been important advocates of research initiatives to use the same epidemiologic methods used to study infectious diseases and cancer and apply them to the study of injury. Finally, pediatricians have played a critical public policy role in the evolution of injury control. Pediatricians have been at the helm behind most legislative initiatives to reduce injury among all people.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accident Prevention*
  • Accident Proneness
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Health Education / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Education / standards
  • Health Priorities
  • Homicide / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Parenting
  • Pediatrics / methods*
  • Poverty
  • Risk-Taking
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / prevention & control
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control*