Objectives—To examine recent trends in baby walker and exersaucer use, and to assess maternal motivations for choosing to use or not use these devices with children.
Setting—Small, Midwestern city in the United States.
Methods—Retrospective telephone survey with a sample of 329 mothers who provided information about their use of walkers and exersaucers with 463 children born in Columbia, Missouri between January 1994 and April 1999.
Results—Baby walker use in the sample declined fairly steadily from 1994 to 1999, whereas exersaucer use increased during the same period. Altogether 88% of mothers were aware of the injury risks associated with walkers, and this knowledge was the most commonly reported reason for abstaining from walker use. Remarkably, 38% of participants with knowledge of walker risks nevertheless used these devices. Participants reported many reasons for using walkers and exersaucers, including child entertainment, perceived developmental benefit, easy availability, and improved safety of exersaucers.
Conclusions—Public knowledge of the hazards of walkers seems to be high, and this awareness is a likely factor in many caregivers' decisions not to use them. Future interventions should focus particular attention on those caregivers who continue to use walkers despite knowledge of the associated risks. In addition to persuasive interventions, alternatives to walkers should be encouraged. Exersaucers represent one viable alternative, and should be promoted as such by the media, pediatricians, and other child care professionals.
- baby walker
- parental supervision
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The other injury project focused on a broad range of parent-child interactions potentially related to unintentional injury. Although socially desirable responding on the part of these 65 participants cannot be ruled out, anonymous feedback obtained after the study indicated that mothers responded honestly and accurately to the interview questions. This is supported by the fact that many mothers readily reported placing children in walkers despite having knowledge of the associated risks.
This project was funded by a University of Missouri-Columbia Research Council Grant while the first author was at the Department of Psychology, University of Missouri-Columbia. No author has financial interests in or has been compensated by the companies that produce exersaucers.