Psychology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version

August 2001


Published in Journal of Pediatric Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 3 (2001), pp. 175–184. Published by Oxford University Press. Copyright © 2001 Society of Pediatric Psychology.
Used by permission.


Objective: To assess maternal and child risk compensation behaviors in response to several commonly used safety measures.

Methods: We administered a previously validated self-report measure of risk tolerance to a total of 151 mothers and their children in grades 3–7. Mothers indicated the level of risk they would permit their child to assume; children were questioned regarding the degree of physical risk they would typically assume while unsupervised by an adult. Participating families were randomly assigned to conditions in which safety equipment either was or was not present during assessments of risk tolerance.

Results: Mothers who viewed the stimulus materials depicting the use of safety precautions reported significantly higher levels of tolerance for risky behavior on the part of their children than did mothers who viewed identical materials without the safety precautions. No significant differences in estimated risk taking emerged between children in the two experimental conditions.

Conclusions: These data may reveal a compensatory mechanism by which parents escalate their threshold for acceptable risk behavior in the presence of safety precautions for their children. Such tendencies have the potential to offset some of the protection provided by the use of safety equipment.