Teaching personal safety skills to young children: an investigation of age and gender across five studies

Child Abuse Negl. 1997 Aug;21(8):805-14. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(97)00040-9.


Objective: To determine the extent to which preschool-aged boys and girls can benefit from instruction in personal safety.

Method: Data compiled from five previous studies were employed. Four hundred and six preschoolers were pretested and participated in either the Behavioral Skills Training program (BST; Wurtele, 1986) or a control program. Children were posttested on skill and knowledge gains.

Results: Preschoolers who had participated in the BST program demonstrated greater knowledge and higher levels of personal safety skills compared with controls. Boys and girls reacted similarly to the program, as did children from younger and older age groups.

Conclusions: These results provide support for the assertion that most preschool-aged children can benefit from participating in a developmentally appropriate personal safety program. Suggestions for expanding the efforts to prevent child sexual abuse are offered, so that children do not shoulder the full responsibility for prevention.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Assertiveness
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / prevention & control*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Health Education / standards*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Program Evaluation
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Safety*
  • Sex Education / standards
  • Treatment Outcome