Don’t Touch the Gadget Because It’s Hot!: Implications for Supervising Children Mothers’ and Children’s Behavior in the Presence of a Contrived Hazard at Home: Implications for Supervising Children

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Abstract

Objective This study compared boys’ with girls’ hazard-directed behaviors at home when the mother was present and absent from the room. Methods Videos were coded for how children reacted to a contrived burn hazard (‘Gadget’), maternal verbalizations to children about the hazard, and children’s compliance with directives to avoid the hazard. Children’s behavioral attributes (risk-taking tendency, inhibitory control) and maternal permissive parenting style were also measured. Results Boys engaged in more hazard-directed behaviors when the mother was present than absent, whereas girls’ risk behaviors did not vary with caregiver presence and was comparable with how boys behaved when the parent was absent. Mothers emphasized reactive communications, and boys received significantly more of these than girls. Permissiveness was associated with fewer statements explaining about safety. Children high in inhibitory control showed fewer hazard-directed behaviors and greater compliance with parent communications, whereas those high in risk-taking propensity showed more hazard-directed behaviors and less compliance. Conclusions The hazard-directed behaviors of boys and girls vary with caregiver context, with boys reacting to parent presence with increased risk taking. Depending on child attributes, different supervision patterns are needed to keep young children safe in the presence of home hazards.

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