Objective: To describe parent opinions about when typical children can engage in activities unsupervised.
Design: Telephone survey combined with the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Participants: Nine hundred forty-five households with children aged 1 to 14 years. Main Exposures Family and household characteristics and caregiver behaviors.
Main outcome measures: Mean ages at which the caregiver believes typical children can bathe without an adult present, cross busy streets without holding hands, and bicycle in busy streets unsupervised.
Results: For bathing, the mean age was 6.6 (range, 2-15) years; mean ages were 1.0 year older among Hispanic white parents (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.5-1.4 years) and 0.8 year younger among parents whose child rode with an impaired driver in the past month (95% CI, -1.5 to -0.1 years). For street crossing, mean age was 9.0 (range, 3-16) years; mean ages were 1.2 years older among Hispanic white parents (95% CI, 0.6-1.8 years), 0.7 year older in single-parent households (95% CI, 0.1-1.3 years), and 0.3 year younger among parents whose child rode with a speeding driver in the past month (95% CI, -0.5 to 0.0 year). For bicycling, mean age was 12.2 (range, 6-21) years; mean ages were 1.5 years younger in households with a risky drinker (95% CI, -2.5 to -0.5 years) and 0.5 year younger among parents whose child rode with a speeding driver in the past month (95% CI, -0.9 to -0.1 year).
Conclusions: Parent opinions about when adult supervision is unnecessary varied with parent behavior and family and household characteristics. Differential supervision may partially explain reports of lower child injury rates among Hispanic and less educated families. Identification of parent and household factors associated with supervision practices might help pediatricians target counseling about age-appropriate supervision.