Researchers surveyed parents of injured children and found kids were
generally under less supervision at the time of the accident than
earlier that same day. That was especially true for kids with more
“There’s always the dilemma of, kids can get injured even if you’re
right on top of them,” said Amy Damashek, a psychologist at Western
Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
“Kids are going to still get some minor bumps and bruises and things
like that, but what we really want to prevent are those more serious
injuries,” she told Reuters Health. “If you’re not right there with
young kids, they’re so mobile and curious that they’re going to find
a way to get into things.”
Damashek studies caregiver supervision and childhood injuries but
was not involved in the new research.
The study, led by Patricia G. Schnitzer of the University of
Missouri in Columbia, focused on kids under five years old. All of
the children had been treated in the emergency room or admitted to
the hospital for unintentional injuries not caused by motor vehicle
In total, 222 parents answered questions about how closely
supervised their child was at the time of the injury and one hour
Supervision was scored on a scale from zero to 10, with 10
reflecting full supervision and anything below 7 considered low
supervision. The score included measures of how nearby the parent
was to the child, how closely the parent was paying attention and
how continuous the parent’s supervision had been.
Among kids treated in the ER, lacerations and bruises were the most
common injuries, often caused by falls or being struck by or caught
in something. For hospitalized children, swallowing something unsafe
and getting burned were both relatively common, and more injuries
involved a fracture or dislocation.
Children in the ER-treated group were three times more likely to
have been beyond a caregiver’s reach at the time of the injury than
earlier in the day, and hospitalized children were over 11 times
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A parent not paying attention was tied to a higher risk of injury
among inpatients, but not among kids who were able to be treated in
the ER and released. Continuity of supervision did not factor into
injuries in either group.
Across the board, more children had little supervision at the time
of their accident than one hour before, according to the findings
published in the journal Injury Prevention.
“This study is important research that adds to our understanding of
the relationship of parental supervision of young children with the
risk of unintentional injury,” Dr. Gary Smith told Reuters Health in
He directs the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide
Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and was not involved in the
Damashek said the best way to prevent injuries among young children
is through a combination of safety measures in the home and close
“Safety-proofing the home as best one can is one really important
method, but that’s not enough,” she said. “You have to be
supervising them pretty much all the time, which is challenging.”
She said the study also highlights the need to support parents on a
societal scale, especially parents in low-income families and others
who may be facing extra childcare challenges.
Injury Prevention, online May 21, 2014.
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