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Keywords:

  • accident;
  • child development;
  • child safety;
  • injury;
  • overprotection;
  • parents

Abstract

Background  The dominant discourse of popular media appears to paint a disparaging picture of parents deemed overly concerned about their children's safety. Child injury prevention interventions frequently focus on influencing parenting behaviours. Fathers are increasingly involved in childcare, highlighting the need to understand their perspectives on overprotective parenting as it relates to considerations of injury prevention while actively engaged with their children.

Methods  Qualitative interviews were carried out with 32 fathers of children aged 2–7 years in a Canadian urban setting. Interview questions investigated fathers' injury prevention attitudes and practices, and their beliefs regarding overprotection. Data analysis was guided by grounded theory methods.

Results  Fathers noted the subjective nature of overprotection, citing family, social and situational factors that shaped their views. Fathers viewed overprotective parents as experiencing excessive fears that were manifested in lack of willingness to risk physical or psychological injury. They described overprotective parenting as including over-involvement in and excessive restriction of children's activities; and expressed concerns that the results of these behaviours would be children lacking self-confidence and crucial life skills.

Conclusion  Fathers viewed as problematic overprotective parenting behaviours that limit access to opportunities for physical risk taking in an attempt to prevent mostly minor injuries. The injury prevention field may benefit from considering fathers' perspectives when designing programmes to minimize the likelihood that safety initiatives may be perceived as promoting overprotection of children. Framing safety messages in ways that align with fathers' views could involve promoting appropriate protection and encouraging an active lifestyle.