Get access

At What Age Should Children Engage in Agricultural Tasks?


  • Funding: This research work was supported by grant UO7/CCU 706145 from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, College of Public Health, The University of Iowa. Disclosures: None. Acknowledgments: We thank the individuals for their assistance with data collection and management, recruitment of subjects, and numerous other tasks associated with this research project. We thank the Keokuk County Rural Health Study Community Advisory Committee for their support, advice, and wisdom. We appreciate the thoughtful input on this manuscript from the individuals including Dr. Carol W. Runyan. We acknowledge the invaluable contributions of the families who were involved in this project. For further information, contact: Jingzhen Yang, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Community & Behavioral Health, College of Public Health, The University of Iowa, 105 River Street, N411 CPHB, Iowa City, IA 52242; e-mail


Purpose: We compared parents’ perceived-as-appropriate ages with actual-performance ages for their children engaging in selected agricultural tasks or practices, and we examined the factors associated with age discrepancy.

Methods: We analyzed data from the Keokuk County Rural Health Study collected among parents of children age 17 or younger. Parents were interviewed separately regarding the age of their children's involvement in 14 selected agricultural tasks and their opinions about appropriate age of involvement.

Findings: Of the 264 families included, 86.5% with a son and 69.8% with a daughter reported having children involved in at least 1 of 14 selected agricultural tasks. The average actual-performance ages for children to be involved in any of the tasks were younger than those that parents perceived appropriate. Furthermore, in 6 of the 9 North American Guidelines for Children's Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) that we assessed, parents’ perceived-as-appropriate ages were younger than minimum ages recommended by the NAGCAT. Driving an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) was the most common task with actual-performance age younger than the NAGCAT-recommended age; 53.0% of boys (n = 106) and 36.1% of girls (n = 61) did so under the recommended age. Boys and children who live on a farm, or whose parents have been or are farmers, were significantly more likely to perform agricultural tasks at earlier ages.

Conclusions: Our results suggest farm parents and other rural stakeholders need to be better educated and encouraged to follow the NAGCAT guidelines, and that multilevel interventions need to be developed to ensure protection of children from agricultural injury and death.