Do mother-child conversations about safety differ in middle- and low-income families?
Keywords:mother-child communication, unintentional childhood injury prevention, parental scaffolding, low-income families
Background: Children from low-income families experience a disproportionate number of unintentional injuries compared to their middle-income peers. Parents are well positioned to teach children about avoiding injury, yet little is known about parent-child safety conversations in low-income families. This study examined to what extent mother-child safety conversations differ between low- and middle-income families.
Methods: Mothers and their 8- to 10-year-old children from low- and middle-income families discussed and rated the safety of photos showing another child engaged in potentially dangerous activities.
Results: Dyads disagreed over safety ratings on a third of trials, and both middle- and low-income mothers were highly successful in resolving disagreements in their favor. Middle-income mothers justified their ratings by referring to almost twice as many dangerous features than outcomes, whereas low-income mothers generated roughly equal numbers of dangerous features and outcomes. Middle-income children did not differ in their references to dangerous features and outcomes, but low-income children focused heavily on dangerous outcomes relative to dangerous features.
Conclusions: Describing how middle- and low-income families discuss safety is a first step in understanding whether similarities and differences contribute to how middle- and low-income children evaluate and navigate potentially dangerous situations.
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