Recent research has begun to examine how parent-child conversations work as a mechanism to prevent childhood injury. However, no work has yet examined what these conversations look like in real time. Given that children suffer 38% of pedestrian injuries that occur worldwide, crossing roads is one such scenario in which parents might talk to their child about safety. The current study sought to examine age-related differences in parent-child conversations about safety while engaged in a risky, yet common situation – crossing roads with traffic.
Seventy-two 6–8-, 10-, and 12-year-old children crossed a single lane of traffic with a parent in an immersive pedestrian simulator 20 times. Measures included the likelihood of gap acceptance, how many gaps parents and children suggested for crossing, who suggested the gap that was taken, who opposed gaps that were suggested for crossing, and if feedback was given about the result of the crossing.
Dyads with 6-, 8-, and 10-year-old children accepted more risky gaps than did those with 12-year-olds, replicating previous work with 6- to 12-year-old solo crossers. Further, dyads with 6-, 8-, and 10-year-olds were less discriminating in their gap selection, taking more small and fewer large gaps than 12-year-old dyads.
Conversations complemented gap choices.
Parents made significantly more gap suggestions when crossing with 6- and 8-year-olds. While there was no effect of age on who suggested the taken gap, parents opposed more of the gaps suggested by 6-year-olds, compared to those suggested by 12-year-olds. Finally, parents provided feedback most often for 12-year-olds.
Parents are guiding younger children’s road crossing behavior by giving them more gap suggestions and opposing more of children’s gap suggestions. Conversely, parents are allowing older, more capable children to guide gap selection for the pair, providing feedback when necessary.
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