Striking a balance between risk and protection: fathers' attitudes and practices toward child injury prevention

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2011 Sep;32(7):491-8. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31821bd1f5.


Objectives: To gain understanding of fathers' attitudes, decisions, and practices regarding the level of risk they are willing to expose their children to and the level of protection they feel is necessary.

Methods: Interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of 32 fathers of children aged 2 to 7 years in British Columbia. Questions addressed fathers' roles and typical activities with their children, child safety concerns and practices. Grounded theory methods guided data analysis.

Results: Fathers believed a central aspect of their role involved actively exploring the world with their children through physical and play-based activities. Fathers made decisions about the appropriateness of activities, striking a balance between protecting their child and exposing them to risk and new experiences. Most fathers placed high value on providing their children with risk-taking opportunities and discussed many positive aspects of risk and experiencing minor injuries. The potential for serious injury was considered in weighing decisions regarding risk engagement. A theoretical model outlining 4 decision-making characteristics for striking a balance is proposed.

Conclusion: Injury prevention interventions can benefit from understanding the meanings and priorities fathers hold about their children's safety, creating programs that resonate with fathers to increase relevance. To maximize success, messaging should consider fathers' decision-making characteristics, incorporate the importance of healthy risk taking for child development, and teach fathers how to minimize likelihood of injury in the context of being active and taking risks with their child.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Father-Child Relations
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Play and Playthings / injuries
  • Recreation / psychology
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology
  • Young Adult