Background: Unintentional poisoning in young children is an important public health issue. Age pattern studies have demonstrated that children aged 1-3 years have the highest levels of poisoning risk among children aged 0-4 years, yet little research has been conducted regarding risk factors specific to this three-year age group and the methodologies employed varied greatly. The purpose of the current study is to investigate a broad range of potential risk factors for unintentional poisoning in children aged 1-3 years using appropriate methodologies.
Methods: Four groups of children, one case group (children who had experienced a poisoning event) and three control groups (children who had been 'injured', 'sick' or who were 'healthy'), and their mothers (mother-child dyads) were enrolled into a case-control study. All mother-child dyads participated in a 1.5-hour child developmental screening and observation, with mothers responding to a series of questionnaires at home. Data were analysed as three case-control pairs with multivariate analyses used to control for age and sex differences between child cases and controls.
Results: Five risk factors were included in the final multivariate models for one or more case-control pairs. All three models found that children whose mothers used more positive control in their interactions during a structured task had higher odds of poisoning. Two models showed that maternal psychiatric distress increased poisoning risk (poisoning-injury and poisoning-healthy). Individual models identified the following variables as risk factors: less proximal maternal supervision during risk taking activities (poisoning-injury), medicinal substances stored in more accessible locations in bathrooms (poisoning-sick) and lower total parenting stress (poisoning-healthy).
Conclusions: The findings of this study indicate that the nature of the caregiver-child relationship and caregiver attributes play an important role in influencing poisoning risk. Further research is warranted to explore the link between caregiver-child relationships and unintentional poisoning risk. Caregiver education should focus on the benefits of close interaction with their child as a prevention measure.