OBJECTIVES: Although many injuries happen when school age children are away from home and in the company of other children, we know surprisingly little about interpersonal influences on children's risk taking decisions. The aim of the present study was to examine the influence of older siblings' persuasive appeals on young children's decisions about engaging in behaviours that could threaten their physical safety. METHODS: Forty same sex sibling pairs participated. Children were shown drawings of play scenes (bicycling, river crossing, and sledding), with each depicting lower and higher risk paths of travel. Children of 8 years made initial decisions as to which paths they would take. Subsequently, their older sibling acted as a confederate and tried to persuade them to change their decisions. RESULTS: After the appeals of older siblings, younger children significantly shifted their decisions: choices of less risky paths replaced the initial selection of more risky paths, and vice versa. A positive sibling relationship was predictive of younger siblings' decision changes. Boys and girls were equally effective in persuasion but they did so using different types of arguments, with boys communicating primarily appeals to fun and girls emphasizing appeals to safety. CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight the effect that older siblings can have on risk taking decisions of younger siblings. Accordingly, they document the importance of considering the interpersonal context of risk taking when designing interventions to reduce injuries among elementary schoolchildren.
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