Purpose This intervention study examined whether exposure to a peer safety norm could counteract the increase in risk taking children show when in an elevated positive mood state.
Methods Risk taking (intentions, behaviours) was measured in a neutral and positive (induced experimentally) mood state. Before completing the tasks in a positive mood, 120 children 7–10 years were exposed to either a safety norm or a control audio.
Results The control audio had no effect on risk taking: children showed an increase in risk taking and intentions when in a positive compared to neutral mood, replicating past research. In contrast, exposure to the safety norm counteracted this effect: children actually showed a decrease in risk taking and intentions when in a positive compared to neutral mood.
Conclusion Manipulating children’s exposure to social norms can be an effective strategy for reducing injury-risk behaviours even when they are in an elevated positive mood state.
Significance This study is an important step towards identifying strategies to reduce risky play behaviours that can lead to injury in school-aged children. The influence of other children, as well as elevated mood, have both been identified as substantial risk factors for injury during the school years, so examining how peer relationships can help to mitigate the increase in risk taking when children are in a positive mood is important. The manipulation of children’s perceptions of peer social norms is a prevention strategy that can be applied across a broad age range and to numerous situations where risk behaviours are likely to lead to injury (e.g., sports). The current findings, therefore, have important implications for preventing childhood injuries.
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